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TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE 



THRILLING STORY OF A FREE COLORED MAN, 



KIDNAPPED IN WASHINGTON IN 1841 



SOLD INTO SLAVERY, 



AND AFTER 



A TWELVE YEAES 1 BONDAGE, 



RECLAIMED BY STATE AUTHORITY FROM A COTTON 
PLANTATION IN LOUISIANA. 



By S. NOETHUP. 



NEW YORK 

INTERNATIONAL BOOK COMPANY 
17 AND 19 WAVERLEY PLACE 



LOAN STACK 



"IT 18 A SINGULAR COINCIDENCE, THAT SOLOMON NORTHUP WAS CARRIED 

TO A PLANTATION IN THE RED RIVER COUNTRY THAT SAME REGION WHEUl 

THE SCENE OK UNCLE TOM*R CAPTIVITY WAS LAID AND HIS ACCOUNT OF 

THIS PLANTATION, AND THE MODE OK LIFE THERE, AND SOME INCIDENTS WHICH 
BK DESCRIBES, FORM A STRIKING PARALLEL TO THAT HISTORY." 

Key to Uncle Torts Cabin, p. 174 



TO 

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE: 

WHOSE NAME, 

THROUGHOUT THE WORLD, 18 IDENTIFIED WITH TH 
GREAT REFORM: 

THIB NA.BBA.TIVK, A.FFOBDIN3 ANOTHBB 

lug to Spittle Corn s abln, 

IS HESPECT* ^LLJ DEDICATED 



004 



Such dupes are men to custom, and so prottt 
To reverence what is ancient, and can pl<W 
A course of long observance for Its use, 
That even servitude, the worst of ills, 
Because delivered down from sire to sou. 
Is kept and guarded as a sacred thing. 
But is it fit, or can it bear the shock 
Of rational discussion, that a man 
Compounded and made up, like other men. 
Of elements tumultuous, in whom loa 
And folly in as ample measure meet, 
As In the bosom of the slave he rules, 
Should be a despot absolute, and bout 
R; in self the only freeman of his land T 



PUBLISHEES PEEFACE. 



/SLAVEHY is now one of the institutions of the past. It 
is so interwoven in the history of our country, that, un 
desirable as a reference or recollection of this particular 
bygone custom may be, it is nevertheless necessary to 
be studied in order to form some adequate idea of our 
Nation s progress and growth. -To take in, or to under 
stand the exact social status of such a people in all its 
bearings, we can pursue no better course than to live among 
them, to become for a time one of them, to fall from a con 
dition of freedom to one of bondage, to feel the scourge, to 
bear the marks of the brands, and the outrage of manacles. 
To experience all this was the misfortune of Mr. Northup ; 
and his story, simple and artless, affords an insight and 
enlists a sympathy far deeper than any work of fiction 
frhich genius can produce. 

It is on this account that the publishers have undertaken 
to issue a new edition of this work. And surely, at this 
time when the exciting questions of color, of race, and of 
social standing are forever settled on American soil by the 
Magna Charta of our common rights, the Constitution 
surely, now, a reprint of the story of a slave, thrilling in its 
details, calls for no apology. It can be taken for what it 
(xv) 



XVI 



is worth a personal narrative of personal sufferings and 
keenly felt and strongly resented wrongs; but, in our 
opinion, the individual will be lost or merged in the general 
interest, and the work wdll be regarded as a history of an 
institution which our political economy has now happily 
superseded, but which, however much its existence may be 
regretted, should be studied indeed, must be studied by 
every one whose interest in our country incites him to 
obtain a correct knowledge of her past existence. 

And that the narrative may be the more interesting, we 
have made no changes from the original; we have left 
unmodified every observation, changed no statement, nor 
tried, in a single instance, to modernize or explain allusions 
which, viewed from the present, may not be so apparent. 
It may be interesting for the reader to notice the remark 
able fulfillments which time has brought to the unconscious 
prophecies of events, or to measure the estimate of the past 
with what history has actually proven them. In any event, 
the flavor of a past era must add piquancy to the enjoy- 
ment of the perusal. 



CONTENTS. 



EDITOR S PREFACE, , t . . 10 

CHAPTER I. 

Introductory Ancestry The Northup Family Birth and 
Parentage Mintus Northup Marriage with Anne Hamp 
ton Good Resolutions Champlain Canal Rafting Ex 
cursion to Canada Farming The Violin Cooking 
Removal to Saratoga Parker and Perry Slaves and Sla 
very The Children The Beginning of Sorrow, 17 

CHAPTER II. 

The two Strangers The Circus Company Departure from 
Saratoga Ventriloquism and Legerdemain Journey to 
New-York Free Papers Brown and Hamilton The 
haste to reach the Circus Arrival in Washington Fune 
ral of Harrison The Sudden Sickness The Torment of 
Thirst The Receding Light Insensibility Chains and 
Darkness, 28 

CHAPTER in. 

Painful Meditations James H. Burch Williams Slave Pen 
in Washington The Lackey, Radburn Assert my Free 
dom The Anger of the Trader The Paddle and Cat-o -nine 
tails The Whipping New Acquaintances Ray, Williams, 
and Randall Arrival of Little Emily and her Mother in the 
Pen Maternal Sorrows The Story of Eliza, 40 



Vlll CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER IV. 

PAG* 

Eliza s Sorrows Preparation to Embark Driven Through 
the Streets of Washington Hail, Columbia The Tomb of 
Washington Clem Ray The Breakfast on the Steamer 
The happy Birds Aquia Creek Fredericksburgh Arri 
val in Richmond Goodin and his Slave Pen-- Robert, of 
Cincinnati David and his Wife Mary and Lethe Clem s 
Return His subsequent Escape to Canada The Brig Or 
leans James H. Burch, 54 

CHAPTER V. 

Arrival at Norfolk Frederick and Maria Arthur, the Free 
man Appointed Steward Jim, Cuffee, and Jenny The 
Storm Bahama Banks The Calm The Conspiracy The 
Leng Boat The Small-Pox Death of Robert Manning, 
the Sailor The Meeting in the Forecastle The Letter 
Arrival at New-Orleans Arthur s Rescue Theophilus Free 
man, the Consignee Platt First Night in the New-Orleans 
Slave Pen, 65 

CHAPTER VI. 

Freeman s Industry Cleanliness and Clothes Exercising in 
the Show Room The Dance Bob, the Fiddler Arrival 
of Customers Slaves Examined The Old Gentleman of 
New-Orleans Sale of David, Caroline, and Lethe Parting 
of Randall and Eliza Small-Pox The Hospital Recov 
ery and Return to Freeman s Slave Pen The Purchaser of 
Eliza, Harry, and Platt Eliza s Agony on Parting from 
Little Emily, 78 

CHAPTER VII. 

The Steamboat Rodolph Departure from New-Orleans Wil 
liain Ford Arrival at Alexandria, on Red River Resolu 
tions The Great Pine Woods Wild Cattle Martin s Sum 
mer Residence The Texas Road Arrival at Master Ford s 
Rose Mistress Ford Sally and her Children John, the 
Cook Walter, Sam, and Antony The Mills on Indian 
Creek Sabbath Days Sam s Conversion The Profit of 



CONTENTS. IX 

PAGB. 

Kindness Rafting Adam Tayilem, the Little White Man 
Cascalla and his Tribe The Indian Ball John M. Tibeats 
The Storm approaching, 89 

CHAPTER Vffl. 

Fard g Embarrassments The Sale to Tibeats The Chattel 
Mortgage Mistress Ford s Plantation on Bayou Bceuf 
Deseription of the Latter Ford s Brother-in-law, Peter Tan 
nerMeeting with Eliza She still Mourns for her Chil 
dren Ford s Overseer, Chapin Tibeats Abuse The Keg 
of Nails The First Fight with Tibeats His Discomfiture 
and Castigation The attempt to Hang me Chapin s In 
terference and Speech Unhappy Reflections Abrupt De 
parture of Tibeats, Cook, and Ramsey Lawson and the 
Brown Mule Message to the Pine Woods, lOfi 

CHAPTER IX. 

Mie Hot Sun Yet bound The Cords sink into my Flesh 
Chapin s Uneasiness Speculation Rachel, and her Cup of 
Water Suffering increases The Happiness of Slavery 
Arrival of Ford He cuts the Cords which bind me, and 
takes the Rope from my Neck Misery The gathering of 
the Slaves in Eliza s Cabin Their Kindness Rachel Re 
peats the Occurrences of the Day Lawson entertains his 
Companions with an Account of his Ride Chapin s appre 
hensions of Tibeats Hired to Peter Tanner Peter ex 
pounds the Scriptures Description of the Stocks, 118 

CHAPTER X. 

Return to Tibeats Impossibility of pleasing him He at 
tacks me with a Hatchet The Struggle over the Broad Axe 
The Temptation to Murder him Escape across the Plan 
tation Observations from the Fence Tibeats approaches, 
followed by the Hounds They take my Track Their load 
Yells They almost overtake me I reach the Water 
The Hounds confused Moccasin Snakes Alligators Night 
in the "Great Pacoudrie Swam y" The Sounds of Life 
A* 



CONTENTS. 

FAfl* 

North-West Course Emerge into the Pine Woods Slave 
and his Young Master Arrival at Ford s Food and Rest, 131 



CHAPTER XL 

The Mistress Garden The Crimson and Golden Fruit Or 
ange and Pomegranate Trees Return to Bayou Boeuf 
Master Ford s Remarks on the way The Meeting with Tib- 
eats His Account of the Chase Ford censures his Brutal 
ity Arrival at the Plantation Astonishment of the Slaves 
OD seeing me The anticipated Flogging Kentucky John 
Mr. Eldret, the Planter El dret s Sam Trip to the "Big 
Cane Brake" The Tradition of "Sutton s Field" Forest 
Trees Gnats and Mosquitoes The Arrival of Black Wo 
men in the Big Cane Lumber Women Sudden Appear 
ance of Tibeats His Provoking Treatment Visit to Ba 
you Bosuf The Slave Pass Southern Hospitality The 
Last of Eliza Sale to Edwin Epps, 141 

CHAPTER XH. 

Personal Appearance of Epps Epps, Drunk and Sober A 
Glimpse of his Plistory Cotton Growing The Mode of 
Ploughing and Preparing Ground Of Planting, of Hoe 
ing, of Picking, of Treating Raw Hands The difference in 
Cotton Pickers Patsey a remarkable one Tasked accord 
ing to Ability Beauty of a Cotton Field The Slave s La 
bors Fear of Approaching the Gin-House Weighing 
" Chores" Cabin Life The Corn Mill The Uses of the 
Gourd Fear of Oversleeping Fear continually Mode 
of Cultivating Corn Sweet Potatoes Fertility of the Soil 
Fattening Hogs Preserving Bacon Raising Cattle 
Shooting-Matches Garden Products Flowers and Verdure, 161 



CHAPTER Xffl. 

The Curious Axe-Helve Symptoms of approaching Illness 
Continue to decline The Whip ineffectual Confined 



CONTENTS. A! 

PAQK 

to the Cabin Visit by Dr. "Wines Partial Recovery Fail 
ure at Cotton Picking "What may be heard on Epps Plan 
tation Lashes Graduated Epps in a Whipping Mood 
Epps in a Dancing Mood Description of the Dance Loss 
of Rest no Excuse Epps Characteristics Jim Burns Re 
moval from Huff Power to Bayou Boeuf Description of 
Uncle Abram; of "Wiley; of Aunt Phebe; of Bob, Henry, 
and Edward ; of Patsey ; with a Genealogical Account of 
each Something of their Past History, and Peculiar Char 
acteristics Jealousy and Lust Patsey, the Victim, 176 

CHAPTER XIV. 

Destruction of the Cotton Crop in 1845 Demand for Laborers 
in St. Mary s Parish Sent thither in a Drove The Order 
of the March The Grand Coteau Hired to Judge Turner on 
Bayou Salle Appointed Driver in his Sugar House Sun 
day Services Slave Furniture; how obtained The Party 
at Yarney s, in Centreville Good Fortune The Captain 
of the Steamer His Refusal to Secrete me Return to Ba 
you Boeuf Sight of Tibeats Patsey s Sorrows Tumult 
and Contention Hunting the Coon and Opossum The 
Cunning of the latter The Lean Condition of the Slave 
Description of the Fish Trap The Murder of the Man from 
Natchez Epps Chalenged by Marshall The Influence of 
Slavery The Love of Freedom, 191 

CHAPTER XV. 

Labors on Sugar Plantations The Mode of Planting Cane 
of Hoeing Cane Cane Ricks Cutting Cane Description 
of the Cane Knife Winrowing Preparing for Succeeding 
Crops Description of Hawkins Sugar Mill on Bayou Boeuf 
The Christmas Holidays The Carnival Season of the 
Children of Bondage The Christmas Supper Red, the Fa 
vorite Color The Violin, and the Consolation it afforded 
The Christmas Dance Lively, the Coquette Sam Roberta, 
and his Rivals Slave Songs Southern Life as it is Thre 
Days in the Year The System of Marriage Uncle Abjam s 
Contempt of Matrimony, . 208 



XU CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XVI. 

PAOB 

Overseers How they are Armed and Accompanied The 
Homicide His Execution at Marksrille Slave Drivers 
Appointed Driver on removing to Bayou Boauf Practice 
makes perfect Epps s Attempt to Cut Platt s Throat The 
Escape from him Protected by the Mistress Forbids Read 
ing and Writing Obtain a Sheet of Paper after Nine Years 
Effort The Letter Armsby, the Mean White Partially 
confide in him His Treachery Epps Suspicions How 
they were quieted Burning the Letter Armsby leaves 
the Bayou Disappointment and Despair, 991 

CHAPTER XVH. 

Wiley disregards the counsels of Aunt Phebe and Uncle Abram, 
and is caught by the Patrollers The Organization and Du 
ties of the latter Wiley Runs Away Speculations in re 
gard to him His Unexpected Return His Capture on the 
Red River, and Confinement in Alexandria Jail Discovered 
by Joseph B. Roberts Subduing Dogs in anticipation of 
Escape The Fugitives in the Great Pine Woods Captur 
ed by Adam Taydein and the Indians Augustus killed by 
Dogs Nelly, Eldret s Slave Woman The Story of Cel*te 

The Concerted Movement Lew Cheney, the Traitor-- 
The Idea of Insurrection 286 

CHAPTER XVIH. 

O Niel, the Tanner Conversation with Aunt Phebe overheard 
Epps in the Tanning Business Stabbing of Uncle Abram 

The Ugly Wound Epps is Jealous Patsey is Missing 
Her Return from Shaw s Harriet, Shaw s Black Wife 
Epps Enraged Patsey denies his Charges She is Tied 
Down Naked to Four Stakes The Inhuman Flogging 
Flaying of Patsey The Beauty of the Day The Bucket of 
Salt Water The Dress stiff with Blood Patsey grows 
Melancholy Her Idea of God and Eternity Of Heaven and 
Freedom The Effect of Slave-Whipping Epps Oldest Sou 

"The Child is Father to the Man,". . . 250 



CONTENTS. 

CHAPTER XIX. 

PAfll 

A very, on Bayod Rouge Peculiarity of Dwellings Epps 
builds a New House Bass, the Carpenter His Noble Qual 
ities His Personal Appearance and Eccentricities Bass 
and Epps discuss the Question of Slavery Epps Opinion 
of Bass I make myself known to him Our Conversation 
His Surprise The Midnight Meeting on the Bayou Bank 
Bass Assurances Declares War against Slavery Why 
I did not Disclose my History Bass writes Letters Copy 
of his Letter to Messrs. Parker and Perry The Fever of 
Suspense Disappointments Bass endeavors to cheer m 
My Faith in him, sfil 

CHAPTER XX. 

fiass faithful to his word His Arrival on Christmas Eve- 
The Difficulty of Obtaining an Interview The Meeting i,i 
the Cabin Non-arrival of the Letter Bass announces hia 
Intention to proceed North Christmas Coversation be 
tween Epps and Bass Young Mistress McCoy, the Beauiy 
of Bayou Boeuf The "Ne plus ultra" of Dinners Mu^io 
and Dancing Presence of the Mistress Her Exceeding 
Beauty The Last Slave Dance William Pierce Over 
sleep myself The Last Whipping Despondency Cold 
Morning Epps Threats The Passing Carriage Stran 
gers approaching through the Cotton-Field Last Hour on 
Bayou Boauf, 279 

CHAPTER XXI. 

The Letter reaches Saratoga Is forwarded to Anne Is laid 
before Henry B. Northup The Statute of May 14, 1840 
Its Provisions Anne s Memorial to the Governor The af 
fidavits Accompanying it Senator Soule s Letter Depar 
ture of the Agent appointed by the Governor Arrival at 
Marksville The Hon. John P. Waddill The Conversation 
on New-York Politics It suggests a Fortunate Idea The 
Meeting with Bass The Secret out Legal Proceedings in 
stituted Departure of Northup and the Sheriff from Marks 



XIV CONTENTS. 

ville for Bayou Boeuf Arrangements on the Way Reach 
Epps* Plantation Discover his Slaves in the Cotton-Field 
The Meeting- The Farewell, 28* 



CHAPTER XXII. 

Arrival in New-Orleans Glimpse of Freeman Genois, the 
Recorder His Description of Solomon Reach Charleston 
Interrupted by Custom House Officers Pass through Rich 
mond Arrival in Washington Burch Arrested Shekels 
and Thorn Their Testimony Burch Acquitted Arrest 
of Solomon Burch withdraws the Complaint The High 
er Tribunal Departure from Washington Arrival at San 
dy Hill Old Friends and Familiar Scenes Proceed to 
Glens Falls Meeting with Anne, Margaret, and Elizabeth 
Solomon Nortlmp Staunton Incidents Conclusion, ...... 310 



828 



NARRATIVE OF SOLOMON NOBTHUP. 



CHAPTER I. 

INTRODUCTORY ANCESTKF THE NORTH UP FAMILY BIRTH AKD .PAREN1 

AGE M1NTU8 NORTHUP MARRIAGE WITH ANNE HAMPTON GOOD RES 

SLTJTIONS CHAMPLA1N CANAL RAFTING EXCURSION TO CANADA 

KARM1NG THE VIOLIN COOKING REMOVAL TO SARATOGA PARKEI 

AND PERRY SLAVES AND SLAVERY THE CHILDREN THE BEGINNING 

OF SORROW. 

v HAVING been born a freeman, and for more than 
thirty years enjoyed the blessings of liberty in a free 
State and having at the end of that time been kid 
napped and sold into Slavery, where I remained, until 
happily rescued in the month of January, 1853, after 
a bondage of twelve years it has been suggested 
that an account of my life and fortunes would not bo 
uninteresting to the public. 

Since my return to liberty, I have not failed to per 
ceive the increasing interest throughout the Northern 
States, in regard to the subject of Slavery. Works oi 
fiction, professing to portray its features in their more 
pleasing as well as more repugnant aspects, havG been 

2 



18 TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 

circulated to an extent unprecedented, and, as I un 
derstand, have created a fruitful topic of comment and 

discussion. 

I can speak of Slavery only so far as it came under 

my own observation only so far as I have known 
and experienced it in my own person. My object is, 
to give a candid and truthful statement of facts : to 
repeat the story of my life, without exaggeration, leav 
ing it for others to determine, whether even the pages 
of fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong or a 
severer bondage. 

As far back as I have been able to ascertain, my 
ancestors on the paternal side were slaves in Rhode 
Island. They belonged to a family by the name of 
Northup, one of whom, removing to the State of New- 
York, settled at Hoosic, in Rensselaer county. He 
brought with him Mintus Nortlmp, my father. OP 
the death of this gentleman, which must have occur 
red some fifty years ago, my father became free, hav 
ing been emancipated by a direction in his will. 

Henry B. Northup, Esq., of Sandy Hill, a distin 
guished counselor at law, and the man to whom, un 
der Providence, I am indebted for my present liberty, 
and my return to the society of my wife and children, 
is a relative of the family in which my forefathers 
T7ere thus held to service, and from which they took 
fcae name I bear. To this fact may be attributed the 
persevering interest he has taken in my behalf. 

Sometime after my father s liberation, he removed 
to the town of Minerva, Essex county, N. Y., where! 



PARENTAGE. 19 

was born, in the month of July, 1808. How long he 
remained in the latter place I have not the means of 
deiinitely ascertaining. From thence he removed to 
Granville, Washington county, near a place known as 
Slyborough, where, for some years, he labored on the 
farm of Clark Northup, also a relative of his old mas 
ter ; from thence he removed to the Alden farm, at 
Moss Street, a short distance north of the village of 
Sandy Hill ; and from thence to the farm now owned 
by Russel Pratt, situated on the road leading from 
Eort Edward to Argyle, where he continued to reside 
until his death, which took place on the 22 d day oi 
November, 1829. He left a widow and two childrer 
myself, and Joseph, an elder brother. The latte 
is still living in the county of Oswego, near the city 
of that name ; my mother died during the period of 
my captivity. 

Though born a slave, and laboring under the disad 
vantages to which my unfortunate race is subjected, 
my father was a man respected for his industry and 
integrity, as many now living, who well remember 
him, are ready to testify. His whole life was passed in 
the peaceful pursuits of agriculture, never seeking em 
ployment in those more rnemaljjositions, which seem 
to be especially allotted to the children of Africa. Be 
sides giving us an education surpassing that ordinari 
ly bestowed upon children in our condition, he ac 
quired, by his diligence and economy, a sufficient 
property qualification to entitle him to the right of 
suffrage. He was accustomed to speak to us of his 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

early life ; and although at all times cherishing the 
warmest emotions of kindness, and even of affection 
towards the family, in whose house he had been a 
bondsman, he nevertheless comprehended the system 
of Slavery, and dwelt with sorrow on the degradation 
of his race. He endeavored to imbue our minds with 
sentiments of morality, and to teach us to place our 
trust and confidence in Him who regards the humblest 
as well as the highest of his creatures. How often 
since that time has the recollection of his paternal 
counsels occurred to me, while lying in a slave hut in 
the distant and sickly regions of Louisiana, smarting 
with the undeserved wounds which an inhuman mas 
ter had inflicted, and longing only for the grave which 
had covered him, to shield me also from the lash of 
the oppressor. In the church-yard at Sandy Hill, an 
humble stone marks the spot where he reposes, after 
having worthily performed the duties appertaining to 
the lowly sphere wherein God had appointed him to 
walk. 

Up to this period I had been principally engaged 
with my father in the labors of the farm. The leis 
ure hours allowed me were generally either employed 
over my books, or playing on the violin an amuse 
ment which was the ruling passion of my youth. It 
has also been the source of consolation since, affording 
pleasure to the simple beings with whom my lot was 
cast, and beguiling my own thoughts, for many hours, 
from the painful contemplation of my fate. 

On Christmas day, 1829, I was married to Anne 



GOOD RESOLUTIONS. 21 

Hampton, a colored girl then living in the vicinity of 
our residence. The ceremony was performed at Fort 
Edward, by Timothy Eddy, Esq., a magistrate of 
that town, and still a prominent citizen of the place. 
She had resided a long time at Sandy Hill, with Mr. 
Baird, proprietor of the Eagle Tavern, and also in the 
family of Rev. Alexander Proudfit, of Salem. This 
gentleman for many years had presided over the Pres 
byterian society at the latter place, and was widely 
distinguished for his learning and piety. Anne 
still holds in grateful remembrance the exceeding 
kindness and the excellent counsels of that good man. 
i* She is not able to determine the exact line of her de 
scent, but the blood of three races mingles in her 
veins. It is difficult to tell whether the red, white, or 
black predominates^) The union of them all, however, 
in her origin, has given her a singular but pleasing 
expression, such as is rarely to be seen. Though 
somewhat resembling, yet she cannot properly be 
styled a quadroon, a class to which, I have omitted to 
mention, my mother belonged. 

I had just now passed the period of my minority, 
having reached the age of twenty-one years in the 
month of July previous. Deprived of the advice and 
assistance of my father, with a wife dependent upon 
me for support, I resolved to enter upon a life of in 
dustry ; and notwithstanding the obstacle of color, 
and the consciousness of my lowly state, indulged in 
pleasant dreams of a good time coining, when the pos 
session of some humble habitation, with a few sur 



22 TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 

rounding acres, should reward my labors, and bring 
me the means of happiness and comfort. 

From the time of my marriage to thig day the love 
I have borne rny wife has been sincere a: id unabated ; 
and only those who have felt the glowing tenderness 
a father cherishes for his offspring, can appreciate my 
affection for the beloved children which have since 
been born to us. This much I deem appropriate and 
necessary to say, in order that those who read these 
pages, may comprehend the poignancy of those suf 
ferings I have been doomed to bear. 

Immediately upon our marriage we commenced 
house-keeping, in the old yellow building then stand 
ing at the southern extremity of Fort Edward village, 
and which has since been transformed into a modern 
mansion, and lately occupied by Captain Lathrop. 
It is known as the Fort House. In this building the 
courts were sometime held after the organization of 
the county. It was also occupied by Burgoyne in 
1 777, being situated near the old Fort on the left bank 
}f the Hudson. 

During the winter I was employed with others re 
pairing the Champlain Canal, on that section over 
which William Van Nortwick was superintendent. 
David McEachron had the immediate charge of the 
men in whose company I labored. By the time the 
canal opened in the spring, I was enabled, from the 
savings of my wages, to purchase a pair of horses, and 
other things necessarily required in the business of 
navigation. 



EXCURSION TO CANADA. 23 

Having hired several efficient hands to assist me, I 
entered into contracts for the transportation of large 
rafts of timber from Lake Champlairi to Troy. Dyer 
Beck with and a Mr. Bartemy, of Whitehall, accompa 
nied me on several trips. During the season I be 
came perfectly familiar with the art and mysteries of 
rafting a knowledge which afterwards enabled me 
to render profitable service to a worthy master, and 
to astonish the simple-witted lumbermen on the banks 
of the Bayou Boeuf. 

In one of my voyages down Lake Champlain, I was 
induced to make a visit to Canada. Kepairing to 
Montreal, I visited the cathedral and other places of 
interest in that city, from whence I continued my ex 
cursion to Kingston and other towns, obtaining 
knowledge of localities, which was also of service to 
me afterwards, as will appear towards the close of 
this narrative. 

Having completed my contracts on the canal satisX 
factorily to myself and to my employer, and not wish- \ 
ing to remain idle, now that the navigation of the ca 
nal was again suspended, I entered into another con 
tract with Medad Gunn, to cut a large quantity of / 
wood. In this business I was engaged during the/ 
winter of 1831-32. 

With the return of spring, Anne and myself con 
ceived the project of taking a farm in the neighbor 
hood. I had been accustomed from earliest youth to 
agricultural labors, and it was an occupation conge 
nial to my tastes. I accordingly entered into arrange- 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

ments for a part of the old Alden farm, on which my 
father formerly resided. With one cow, one swine, 
a yoke of fine oxen I had lately purchased of Lewis 
Brown, in Hartford, and other personal property and 
effects, we proceeded to our new home in Kingsbury. 
That year I planted twenty-five acres of corn, sowed 
large fields of oats, and commenced farming upon as 
large a scale as my utmost means would permit. 
Anne was diligent about the house affairs, while I 
toiled laboriously in the field. 

On this place we continued to reside until 1834. 
In the winter season I had numerous calls to play on 
the violin. Wherever the young people assembled to 
dance, I was almost invariably there. Throughout 
the surrounding villages my fiddle was notorious. 
Anne, also, during her long residence at the Eagle 
Tavern, had become somewhat famous as a cook. 
During court weeks, and on public occasions, she was 
employed at high wages in the kitchen at SherrilPs 
Coffee House. 

We always returned home from the performance 
of these services with money in our pockets ; so that, 
with fiddling, cooking, and farming, we soon found 
oursel ves in the possession of abundance, and, in fact 
leading a happy and prosperous life. Well, indeed, 
"would it have been for us had we remained on the 
farm at Kingsbury ; but the time came when the 
next step was to be taken towards the cruel destiny 
that awaited me. 

In March, 1834, we removed to Saratoga Springs 



REMOVAL TO SARATOGA. 25 

We occupied a house belonging to Daniel O Brien, 
on the north side of Washington street. At that time 
Isaac Taylor kept a large boarding house, known as 
Washington Hall, at the north end of Broadway. He 
employed me to drive a hack, in which capacity 1 
worked for him two years. After this time I was 
generally employed through the visiting season, as 
also was Anne, in the United States Hotel, and other 
public houses of the place. In winter seasons I re 
lied upon my violin, though during the construction 
of the Troy and Saratoga railroad, I performed many 
hard days labor upon it. 

I \ras in the habit, at Saratoga, of purchasing arti 
cles recessary foi my family at the stores of Mr. Ce 
plias Parker and Mr. William Perry, gentlemen 
towaids whom, for many acts of kindness, I enter 
tained feelings of strong regard. It was for this rea 
son that, twelve years afterwards, I caused to be di 
rected to them the letter, which is hereinafter insert 
ed, and which was the means, in the hands of Mr. 
Northup, of my fortunate deliverance. 

While living at the United States Hotel, I frequent 
ly met with slaves, who had accompanied their mas 
ters from the South. They were always well dressed 
and well provided for, leading apparently an easy life, 
with but few of its ordinary troubles to perplex them. 
Many times they entered into conversation with me 
MI the subject of Slavery. Almost uniformly I found 
they cherished a secret desire for liberty. Some of 

hem expressed the most ardent anxiety to escape, and 
B 



6 TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 

/consulted me on the best method of effecting it. The 
fear of punishment, however, which they knew was 
certain to attend their re-capture and return, in all 
cases proved sufficient to deter them from the exper 
iment. Having all my life breathed the free air of 
the ISTorth, and conscious that I possessed the same 
feelings and affections that find a place in the white 
man s breast ; conscious, moreover, of an intelligence 
equal to that of some men, at least, with a fairer skin, 
I was too ignorant, perhaps too independent, to con 
ceive how any one could be content to live in the ab 
ject condition of a slave. I could not comprehend the 
justice of that law, or that religion, which upholds or 
recognizes the principle of Slavery ; and never once 
I am proud to say, did I fail to counsel any one wh< 
came to me, to watch his opportunity, and strike fo* 
freedom. 

I continued to reside at Saratoga until the spring of 
1841. The nattering anticipations which, seven years 
before, had seduced us from the quiet farm-house, on 
the east side of the Hudson, had not been realized. 
Though always in comfortable circumstances, we 
had not prospered. The society and associations at that 
world-renowned watering place, were not calculated 
to preserve the simple habits of industry and economy 
to which I had been accustomed, but, on the contrary, 
to substitute others in their stead, tending to shift- 
lessness and extravagance. 

At this time we were the parents of three children 
Elizabeth, Margaret, and Alonzo. Elizabeth, the 



HOME AND ITS PLEASURES. 27 

eldest, was in her tenth year; Margaret was two 
years younger, and little Alonzo had just passed his 
fifth birth-day. They filled our house with gladness. 
Their young voices were music in our ears. Many an 
airy castle did their mother and myself "build for the 
little innocents. When not at labor I was always 
walking with them, clad in their best attire, through 
the streets and groves of Saratoga. Their presence 
was my delight ; and I clasped them to my bosom 
with as warm and tender love as if their clouded skins 
had been as white as snow. 

Thus far the history of my life presents nothing 
whatever unusual nothing but the common hopes, 
and loves, and labors of an obscure colored man, ma 
king his humble progress in the world. But now I 
had reached a turning point in my existence reach 
ed the threshold of unutterable wrong, and sorrow, 
and despair. Now had I approached within the shad 
ow of the cloud, into the thick darkness whereof I was 
soon to disappear, thenceforward to be hidden from 
the eyes of all my kindred, and shut out from the 
sweet light of liberty, for many a weary year. 



CHAPTER II. 



PiJl TWO STRANGERS THE CIRCUS COMPANY DEPARTURE FROM SARA 
TOGA VENTRILOQUISM AND LEGERDEMAIN JOURNEY TO NEW-YORK 

FREE PAPERS BROT"N AND HAMILTON THE HASTE TO REACH THJ 

CIRCUS ARRIVAL IN WASHINGTON FUNERAL OF HARRISON THE SUD 
DEN SICKNESS THE TORMENT OF THIRST THE RECEDING LIGHT IN 
SENSIBILITY CHAINS AND DARKNESS. 



ONE morning, towards the latter part of the month 
of March, 1841, having at that time no particular 
business to engage my attention, I was walking about 
the village of Saratoga Springs, thinking to myself 
where I might obtain some present employment, un 
til the busy season should arrive. Anne, as was her 
usual custom, had gone over to Sandy Hill, a dis 
tance of some twenty miles, to take charge of the cu 
linary department at Sherrill s Coffee House, during 
the session of the court. Elizabeth, I think, had ac 
companied her. Margaret and Alonzo were with 
their aunt at Saratoga. 

On the corner of Congress street and Broadway, 
near the tavern, then, and for aught I know to the 
contrary, still kept by Mr. Moon, I was met by two 
gentlemen of respectable appearance, both of whom 
were entirely unknown to me. I have the impres- 



THE TWO STRANGERS. 2& 

sion that they were introduced to me by some one of 
my acquaintances, but who, I have in vain endeavor 
ed to recall, with the remark that I was an expert 
player on the violin. 

At any rate, they immediately entered into conver 
sation on that subject, making numerous inquiries 
louching my proficiency in that respect. My respon 
ses being to all appearances satisfactory, they propos 
ed to engage my services for a short period, stating, 
at the same time, I was just such a person as their 
business required. Their names, as they afterwards 
gave them to me, were Merrill Brown and Abram 
Hamilton, though whether these were their true ap 
pellations, I have strong reasons to doubt. The for 
mer was a man apparently forty years of age, some 
what short and thick-set, with a countenance indica 
ting shrewdness and intelligence. He wore a black 
frock coat and black hat, and said he resided either at 
Rochester or at Syracuse. The latter was a young 
man of fair complexion and light eyes, and, I should 
judge, had not passed the age of twenty -five. He 
was tall and slender, dressed in a snuff-colored coat, 
with glossy hat, and vest of elegant pattern. His 
whole apparel was in the extreme of fashion. His 
appearance was somewhat effeminate, but prepossess 
ing, and there was about him an easy air, that showed 
he had mingled with the world. They were connect 
ed, as they informed me, with a circus company, then 
in the city of Washington ; that they were on their 



i.y 

/ *!., 



30 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

way thither to rejoin it, having left it for a short time 
to make an excursion northward, for the purpose ot 
seeing the country, and were paying their expenses 
an occasional exhibition. They also remarked 
that they had found much difficulty in procuring mu 
sic for their entertainments, and that if I would ac 
company them as far as New- York, they would give 
me one dollar for each day s services, and three dol 
lars in addition for every night I played at their per 
formances, besides sufficient to pay the expense* of 
my return from ISTew-York to Saratoga. 
- I at once accepted the tempting offer, both for the 
reward it promised, and from a desire to visit the 
metropolis. Thevjwere anxious to leave immediately. 
Thinking my absence would be brief, I did not deem 
it necessary to write to Anne whither I had gone ; 
in fact supposing that my return, perhaps, would be 
\/as soon as hers. So taking a change of linen and my 
violin, I was ready to depart. The carriage was 
brought round a covered one, drawn by a pair of 
noble bays, altogether forming an elegant establish 
ment. Their baggage, consisting of three large 
trunks, was fastened on the rack, and mounting to 
the driver s seat, while they took their places in the 
rear, I drove away from Saratoga on the road to 
Albany, elated with my new position, and happy as 
1 had ever been, on any day in all my life. 

We passed through Ballston, and striking the ridge 
road, as it is called, if my memory correctly serves 



VENTRILOQUISM AND LEGERDEMAIN. 31 

me, followed it direct to Albany. We reached that 
city before dark, and stopped at a hotel southward 
from the Museum. 

This night I had an opportunity of witnessing one 
of their performances the only one, during the whole 
period I was with them. Hamilton was stationed at 
the door ; I formed the orchestra, while Brown pro 
vided the entertainment. It consisted in throwing 
balls, dancing on the rope, frying pancakes in a hat, 
causing invisible pigs to squeal, and other like feats 
of ventriloquism and legerdemain. The audience 
was extraordinarily sparse, and not of the selectest 
character at that, and Hamilton s report of the pro 
ceeds presented but a " beggarly account of empty 
boxes." 

Early next morning we renewed our journey. The 
burden of their conversation now was the expression 
of an anxiety to reach the circus without delay. 
They hurried forward, without again stopping to ex 
hibit, and in due course of time, we reached Kew- 
York, taking lodgings at a house on the west side of 
the city, in a street running from Broadway to the 
river. I supposed my journey was at an end, and 
expected in a day or two at least, to return to my 
friends and family at Saratoga. Brown and Hamil 
ton, however, began to importune me to continue with 
them to Washington. They alleged that immediately 
on their arrival, now that the summer season was ap 
proaching, the circus would set out for the north. 
They promised me a situation and high wages if I 



32 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

would accompany them. Largely did they expatiate 
on the advantages that would result to me, and such 
were the flattering representations they made, that 1 
finally concluded to accept the offer. 
, The next morning they suggested that, inasmuch 
as we were about entering a slave State, it would be 
well, before leaving New- York, to procure free pa 
pers. The idea struck me as a prudent one, though 1 
\ think it would scarcely have occurred to me, had they 
\not proposed it. We proceeded at once to what I un 
derstood to be the Custom House. They made oath to 
certain facts showing I was a free man. A paper was 
drawn up and handed us, with the direction to take it 
to the clerk s office. We did so, and the clerk having 
added something to it, for which he was paid six shil 
lings, we returned again to the Custom House. Some 
further formalities were gone through with before it 
was completed, when, paying the officer two dollars, 
I placed the papers in my pocket, and started with 
my two friends to our hotel. I thought at the time, 
I must confess, that the papers were scarcely worth the 
cost of obtaining them the apprehension of danger 
to my personal safety never having suggested itself 
to me in the remotest manner. The clerk, to whom 
we were directed, I remember, made a memorandum 
jn a large book, which, I presume, is in the office 
yet. A reference to the entries during the latter part 
of March, or first of April, 1841, I have no doubt 
will satisfy the incredulous, at least so far as this par 
ticular transaction is concerned. 



ARRIVAL AT WASHINGTON. 33 

evidence of freedom in my possession, the 
next day after our arrival in New- York, we crossed 
tlie ferry to Jersey City, and took the road to Phila 
delphia. Here we remained one night, continuing 
our journey towards Baltimore early in the morning. 
T n due time, we arrived in the latter city, and stopped 
at a hotel near the railroad depot, either kept by a 
Mr. Kathbone, or known as the Rathbone House. 
^U1 the way from New- York, their anxiety to reach 
the circus seemed to grow more and more intense. 
We left the carriage at Baltimore, and entering the 
cars, proceeded to Washington, at which place we 
arrived just at nightfall, the evening previous to the 
funeral of General Harrison, and stopped at Gadsby s 
Hotel, on Pennsylvania Avenue. 

After supper they called me to their apartments, 
and paid me forty-three dollars, a sum greater than 
my wages amounted to, which act of generosity was 
in consequence, they said, of their not having exhib 
ited as often as they had given me to anticipate, du 
ring our trip from Saratoga. They moreover inform 
ed me that it had been the intention of the circus 
company to leave Washington the next morning, but 
that on account of th-J iimeral, they had concluded 1 3 
remain another day. ihey were then, as they had been 
from the time of o j first meeting, extremeh kind. 
No opportunity was omitted of addressing me in the 
language of apj> Nation ; while, on the other hand. 
I was certainly much prepossessed in their favor. I 
B* 8 



TWELVE YEAHS A SLAVE. 

gave them my confidence without reserve, and w< ulel 
freely have trusted them to almost any extent. Their 
constant conversation and manner towards me their 
foresight in suggesting the idea of free papers, and a 
hundred other little acts, unnecessary to be repeated 
all indicated that they were friends indeed, sincerely 
solicitous for my welfare. I know not but they were. 
I know not but they were innocent of the great wick 
edness of which I now believe them guilty. Whether 
they were- accessory to my misfortunes subtle and 
inhuman monsters in the shape of men designedly 
luring me away from home and family, and liberty, 
for the sake of gold those who read these pages 
will have the same means of determining as myself. 
If they were innocent, my sudden disappearance 
must have been unaccountable indeed ; but revolv 
ing in my mind all the attending circumstances, I 
never yet could indulge, towards them, so charitable 
a supposition. 

After receiving the money from them, of which 
they appeared to have an abundance, they advised 
me not to go into the streets that night, inasmuch 
as I was unacquainted with the customs of the city. 
Promising to remember their advice, I left them to 
gether, and soon after was shown by a colored ser 
vant to a sleeping room in the back part of the hotel, 
on the ground floor. I laid down to rest, thinking of 
home and wife, and children, and the long distance 
that stretched between us, until I fell asleep. But 



FtTNERAL OF HARRISON. 35 

no good angel of pity came to my bedside, bidding 
me to fly no voice of mercy forewarned me in my 
dreams of the trials that were just at hand. 

The next day there was a great pageant in Wasu- 
ington. The roar of cannon and the tolling of bells 
filled the air, while many houses were shrouded with 
crape, and the streets were black with people. As 
the day advanced, the procession made its appear 
ance, coming slowly through the Avenue, carriage 
after carriage, in long succession, while thousands 
upon thousands followed on foot all moving to the 
sound of melancholy music. They were bearing the 
dead body of Harrison to the grave. 

From early in the morning, I was constantly in the 
company of Hamilton and Brown. They were the 
only persons I knew in Washington. We stood to 
gether as the funeral pomp passed by. I remember 
distinctly how the window glass would break and 
rattle to the ground, after each report of the cannon 
they were firing in the burial ground. We went to the 
Capitol, and walked a long time about the grounds. 
In the afternoon, they strolled towards the Presi 
dent s House, all the time keeping me near to them, 
and pointing out various places of interest. As yet, 
I had seen nothing of the circus. In fact, I had 
thought of it but little, if at all, amidst the excite 
ment of the day. 

My friends, several times during the afternoon, en 
tered drinking saloons, and called for liquor. The? 
were by no means in the habit, however, so far as 



36 TWELVE YE AllS A SLAVE. 

knew them, of indulging to excess. On these occa 
sions, after serving themselves, they would pour out 
a glass and hand it to me. I did not become intoxi 
cated, as may be inferred from what subsequently 
occurred. Towards evening, and soon after parta 
king of one of these potations, I began to experience 
most unpleasant sensations. I felt extremely ill. My 
head commenced aching a dull, heavy pain, inex 
pressibly disagreeable. At the supper table, I was 
without appetite ; the sight and flavor of food was 
nauseous. About dark the same servant conducted 
me to the room I had occupied the previous night. 
Brown and Hamilton advised me to retire, commise 
rating me kindly, and expressing hopes that I would be 
better in the morning. Divesting myself of coat and 
boots merely, I threw myself upon the bed. It was 
impossible to sleep. The pain in my head continued 
to increase, until it became almost unbearable. In a 
short time I became thirsty. My lips were parched. 
I could think of nothing but water of lakes and 
flowing rivers, of brooks where I had stooped to 
drink, and of the dripping bucket, rising with its cool 
and overflowing nectar, from the bottom of the well. 
Towards midnight, as near as I could judge, I arose, 
unable longer to bear such intensity of thirst. I 
was a stranger in the house, and knew nothing of its 
apartments. There was no one up, as I could observe. 
Groping about at random, I knew not where, I found 
the way at last to a kitchen in the basement. Two 
or three colored servants were moving through it, one 



THE TORMENT OF THIRST. 37 

of whom, a woman, gave me two glasses of water. 
It afforded momentary relief, but by the time I had 
reached my room again, the same burning desire of 
el i-ink, the same tormenting thirst, had again returned, 
it was even more torturing than before, as was also 
the wild pain in my head, if such a thing could be. 
I was in sore distress in most excruciating agony ! 
I seemed to stand on the brink of madness ! The 
memory of that night of horrible suffering will fol 
low me to the grave. 

In the course of an hour or more after my return 
from the kitchen, I was conscious of some one enter 
ing my room. There seemed to be several a ming 
ling of various voices, but how many, or who 
they were, I cannot tell. Whether Brown and Hamil 
ton were among them, is a mere matter of conjecture. 
I only remember, with any degree of distinctness, 
that I was told it was necessary to go to a physician 
and procure medicine, and that pulling on my boots, 
without coat or hat, I followed them through a long 
passage-way, or alley, into the open street. It ran 
out at right angles from Pennsylvania Avenue. On 
the opposite side there was a light burning in a win 
dow. My impression is there were then three per 
sons with me, but it is altogether indefinite and 
vague, and like the memory of a painful dream. 
Going towards the light, which I imagined proceed 
ed from a physician s office, and which seemed to re 
cede as I advanced, is the last glimmering recollec 
tion I can now recall. From that moment I was 



38 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

insensible.- How long I remained in that condition 
whether only that night, or many days and nights 
I do not know ; but when consciousness returned, 1 
found myself alone, in utter darkness, and in chains. 
\The pain in my head had subsided in a measure, 
but I was very faint and weak. I was sitting upon a 
low bench, made of rough boards, and without coat 
or hat. I was hand-cuffed. Around my ankles also 
were a pair of heavy fetters. One end of a chain was 
fastened to a large ring in the floor, the other to the 
fetters on my ankles. I tried in vain to stand upon 
my feet. Waking from such a painful trance, it 
was some time before I could collect my thoughts. 
Where was I? "What was the meaning of these 
chains ? Where were Brown and Hamilton ? What 
had I done to deserve imprisonment in such a dun 
geon ? I could not comprehend. There was a blank 
of some indefinite period, preceding my awakening 
in that lonely place, the events of which the utmost 
stretch of memory was unable to recall. I listened 
intently for some sign or sound of life, but nothing 
broke the oppressive silence, save the clinking of my 
\ chains, whenever I chanced to move. I spoke aloud, 
t the sound of my voice startled me. I felt of my 
pockets, so far as the fetters would allow far enough 
indeed, to ascertain that I had not only been robbed 
of liberty, but that my money and free papers were 
also gone ! Then did the idea begin to break upon 
my mind, at first dim and confused, that I had been 
kidnapped. But that I thought was incredible. 



CHAINS AND DARKNESS. 39 

There must have been some misapprehension some 
unfortunate mistake. It could not be that a free 
eitizen of New- York, who had wronged no man, nor 
violated any law, should be dealt with thus inhumanly. 
Flie more I contemplated my situation, however, the 
more I became confirmed in my suspicions. It was a 
desolate thought, indeed. I folt there was no trust or 
mercy in unfeeling man ; and commending myself to 
f ie God of the oppressed, bowed my head upon my 
fettered hands, and wept most bitterly. 



5HAPTEK Mi 

rojirri. M K . -<\N MONS JAMES H. BURCH WILIIAMS SLAVE I-N i* 

AMiI>uiOX THE LACKEY, RADRURN ASSERT MY FRKEDuM THfe 

ANGER OF TriE TriADKR THE PADDLE AND CAT-o -NINETAIL8 . tiii 

WHIPIING NEW ACQUAINTANCES RAY, WILLIAMS, AND RANDALL 

ARRIVAL OF LITTLE EMILY AND HER MOTHER IN THE PEN MATERNAL 

SORROWS THE STORY OF ELIZA. 

SOME three hours elapsed, during which time 1 re 
mained seated on the low bench, absorbed in painful 
meditations. At length I heard the crowing of a 
cock, and soon a distant rumbling sound, as of car 
riages hurrying through the streets, came to my ears, 
and I knew that it was day. No ray of light, how 
ever, penetrated my prison. Finally, I heard foot 
steps immediately overhead, as of some one walking 
to and fro. It occurred to me then that I must be 
in an underground apartment, and the damp, mouldy 
odors of the place confirmed the supposition. The 
noise above continued for at least an hour, when, 
at last, I heard footsteps approaching from without. 
A key rattled in the lock a strong door swung back 
upon its hinges, admitting a flood of light, and two 
men entered and stood before me. One of them was 
a large, powerful man, forty years of age, perhaps. 



BURGH, THE SLAVE DEALER 41 

with dark, chestnut-colored hair, slightly interspersed 
with gray. His face was full, his complexion flush, 
his features grossly coarse, expressive of nothing but 
cruelty and cunning. He was about five feet ten 
inches high, of full habit, and, without prejudice, I 
must be allowed to say, was a man whose whole &]>^ 
pearance was sinister and repugnant. His name was 
James H. Burch, as I learned afterwards a well- 
known slave-dealer in Washington ; and then, or late 
ly, connected in business, as a partner, with Theophi- 
lus Freeman, of .New-Orleans. The person who 
accompanied him was a simple lackey, named Ebe- 
nezer Radburn, who acted merely in the capacity of 
turnkey. Both of these men still live in Washington, 
or did, at the time of my return through that city 
from slavery in January last. 

The light admitted through the open door enabled 
me to observe the room in which I was confined. It 
was about twelve feet square the walls of solid ma 
sonry. The floor was of heavy plank. There was 
one small window, crossed with great iron bars, with 
an outside shutter, securely fastened. 

An iron-bound door led into an adjoining cell, or 
vault, wholly destitute of windows, or any means of 
admitting light. The furniture of the room in which 
I was, consisted of the wooden bench on which I sat, 
an old-fashioned, dirty box stove, and besides these, \ 
in either cell, there was neither bed, nor blanket, nor 
othor thing whatever. The door, through which / 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 



Bnrch and R-adburn entered, led througli a small 
passage, up a flight of steps into a yard, surrounded 
by a brick wall ten or twelve feet high, immediately 
in rear of a building of the same width as itself. 
The yard extended rearward from the house about 
thirty feet. In one part of the wall there was a 
strongly ironed door, opening into a narrow, covered 
passage, leading along one side of the house into the 
street. The doom of the colored man, upon whom 
the door leading out of that narrow passage closed, 
was sealed. The top of the wall supported one end 
of a roof, which ascended inwards, forming a kind of 
open shed. Underneath the roof there was a crazy 
loft all round, where slaves, if so disposed, might 
sleep at night, or in inclement weather seek shelter 
from the storm. It was like a farmer s barnyard in 
most respects, save it was so constructed that the out 
side world could never see the human cattle that were 
herded there. 

The building to which the yard was attached, was 
two stories high, fronting on one of the public streets 
of Washington. Its outside presented only the ap 
pearance of a quiet private residence. X stranger 
looking at it, would never have dreamed of its exe 
crable uses. Strange as it may seem, within plain 
sight of this same house, looking down from iis com 
manding height upon it, was the Capitol. The voices 
of patriotic representatives boasting of freedom and 
equality, and the rattling of 1^ poor slave s chains, 



ASSFJIT MY FBEEDOM. 43 

almost commingled. A slave pen within the verv 
shadow of tlie Capitol! 

Such is a correct description as it was in 1841, of 
Williams slave pen in Washington, in one of the eel 
hirs of which I found myself so unaccountably COD 
lined. 

" Well, my boy, how dc you feel now ?" said 
Burch, as he entered through the open door. I re 
plied that I was sick, and inquired the cause of my 
i tnprisonment. He answered that I w r as his slave 
that he had bought me, and that he was about to send 
me to New-Orleans. I asserted, aloud and boldly, 
that I was a free man a resident of Saratoga, where 
I had a wife and children, who were also free, and 
that my name was ISforthup. I complained bitterly 
of the strange treatment I had received, and threat 
ened, upon my liberation, to have satisfaction for the 
wrong. He denied that I was free, and with an em 
phatic oath, declared that I came from Georgia. 
Again and again I asserted I was no man s slave, and 
insisted upon his taking off my chains at once. He 
endeavored to hush me, as if he feared my voice 
would be overheard. But I would not be silent, and 
denounced the authors of my imprisonment, whoever 
they might be, as unmitigated villains. Finding he 
could not quiet me, he new into a towering passion. 
With blasphemous oaths, he called me a black liar, a 
an away from Georgia, and every other profane and 



44 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

vulgar epithet that the most indecent fancy could 
conceive. 

During this time Radburn was standing silently 
by. His business was, to oversee this human, or 
rather inhuman stable, receiving slaves, feeding and 
whipping them, at the rate of two shillings a head 
per day. Turning to him, Burch ordered the paddle 
and cat-o -ninetails to be brought in. He disappear 
ed, and in a few moments returned with these in . 
etruments of torture. The paddle, as it is termed in 
slave-beating parlance, or at least the one with which 1 
first became acquainted, and of which I now speak, was 
a piece of hard- wood board, eighteen or twenty inches 
long, moulded to the shape of an old-fashioned pudding 
stick, or ordinary oar. The flattened portion, which 
was about the size in circumference of two open 
hands, was bored with a small auger in numerous 
places. The cat was a large rope of many strands 
the strands unraveled, and a knot tied at the extrem 
ity of each. 

As soon as these formidable whips appeared, I was 
seized by both of them, and roughly divested of my 
clothing. My feet, as has been stated, were fastened 
to the floor. Drawing me over the bench, face down 
wards, Radburn placed his heavy foot upon the fet 
ters, between my wrists, holding them painfully to the 
floor. With the paddle, Burch commenced beating 
rue. Blow after blow was inflicted upon my naked 
body. When his unrelenting arm grew tired, h 



THE WHIPPING. 45 

stopped and asked if I still insisted I was a free man 
Idid insist upon it, and then the blows were renewed, 
faster and more energetically, if possible, than before. 
When again tired, he would repeat the same question, 
and receiving the same answer, continue his cruel 
labor. All this time, the incarnate devil was utter 
ing most fiendish oaths. At length the paddle broke, 
leaving the useless handle in his hand. Still I would 
not yield. All his brutal blows could not force from 
my lips the foul lie that I was a slave. Casting mad 
ly on the floor the handle of the broken paddle, he 
seized the rope. This was far more painful than the 
other. I struggled with all my power, but it was in 
vain. I prayed for mercy, but my prayer was only 
answered with imprecations and with stripes. I 
thought I must die beneath the lashes of the accursed 
brute. Even now the flesh crawls upon my bones, as 
I recall the scene. I was all on fire. My sufferings 
I can compare to nothing else than the burning ago 
nies of hell ! 

At last I became silent to his repeated questions. 
I would make no reply. In fact, I was becoming al 
most unable to speak. Still he plied the lash without 
stint upon my poor body, until it seemed that the 
lacerated flesh was stripped from my bones at every 
stroke. A man with a particle of mercy in his soul 
A^ould not have beaten even a dog so cruelly. At 
length Eadburn said that it was useless to whip 
me any more that I would be sore enough. There 
upon, Burek desisted, saying, with an admonitory 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 



shake of his fist in my face, and hissing the woids 
through his firm-set teeth, that if ever I dared to 
utter again that I was entitled to my freedom, that I 
had been kidnapped, or any thing whatever of the 
kind, the castigation I had jnst received was nothing 
In comparison with what would follow. He swore 
J^J that he would either conquer or kill me. With these 
consolatory words, the fetters were taken from my 
wrists, my feet still remaining fastened to the ring ; 
the shutter of the little barred window, which had 
been opened, was again closed, and going out, lock 
ing the great door behind them, I was left in dark 
ness as before. 

In an hour, perhaps two, iny heart leaped to my 
throat, as the key rattled in the door again. I, who 
had been so lonely, and who had longed so ar 
dently to see some one, I cared not who, now shud 
dered at the thought of man s approach. A human. 
face was fearful to me, especially a white one. Rad- 
burn entered, bringing with him, on a tin plate, a 
piece of shriveled fried pork, a slice of bread and a 
cup of water. He asked me how I felt, and remark 
ed that I had received a pretty severe flogging. He 
remonstrated with me against the propriety of as 
serting my freedom. In rather a patronizing and 
confidential manner, he gave it to me as his advice, 
that the less I said on that subject the better it would 
be for me. The man evidently endeavored to appear 
kind whether touched at the sight of my sadcondi 
tion, or with, the view of silencing, on my part, mi)- 



THE WHIPPING. 47 

further expression of my rights, it is not necessary 
now to conjecture. He unlocked the fetters from my 
ankles, opened the shutters of the little window, and 
departed, leaving me again alone. 

By this time I had become stiff and sore ; my 
body was covered with blisters, and it was with great \ 
pain and difficulty that I could move. From the / 
window I could observe nothing but the roof resting 

O O 

on the adjacent wall. At night I laid down upon the 
damp, hard floor, without any pillow or covering 
whatever. Punctually, twice a day, Eadburn came 
in, with his pork, and bread, and water. I had but 
little appetite, though I was tormented with contin 
ual thirst. My wounds would not permit me to re 
main but a few minutes in any one position ; so, sit 
ting, or standing, or moving slowly round, I passed 
the days and nights. I was heart sick and discour 
aged. Thoughts of my family, of my wife and chil 
dren, continually occupied my mind. When sleep 
overpowered me I dreamed of them dreamed I was 
again in Saratoga that I could see their faces, and 
hear their voices calling me. Awakening from the 
pleasant phantasms of sleep to the bitter realities 
around me, I could but groan and weep. Still my 
spirit was not broken. I indulged the anticipation of 
escape, and that speedily. It was impossible, I rea 
soned, that men could be so unjust as to detain me as 
a slave, when the truth of my case was known. 
Burch, ascertaining I was no runaway from Georgia, 
would certainly let me go. Though suspicions of 



4:8 TWELVE YEABS A SLAVE. 

Brown and Hamilton were not imfrequent, I could 
not reconcile myself to the idea that they were in 
strumental to my imprisonment. Surely they would 
Beek me out they would deliver me from thraldom. 
Alas ! I had not then learned the measure of " man s 
Inhumanity to man," nor to what limitless extent of 
wickedness he will go for the love of gain. 

In the course of several days the outer door was 
thrown open, allowing me the liberty of the yard. 
There I found three slaves one of them a lad of ten 
years, the others young men of about twenty and 
twenty-five. I was not long in forming an acquaint 
ance, and learning their names and the particulars of 
their history. 

The eldest was a colored man named Clemens Ray. 
ELe had lived in Washington ; had driven a hack, and 
worked in a livery stable there for a long time. He 
was very intelligent, and fully comprehended his sit 
uation. The thought of going south overwhelmed 
him with grief. Burcli had purchased him a few 
days before, and had placed hmi there until such time 
as he was ready to send him to the New-Orleans mar 
ket. From him I learned for the first time that I was 
in William s Slave Pen, a place I had never heard of 
previously. He described to me the uses for which 
it was designed. I repeated to him the particulars of 
my unhappy story, but he could only give me the 
consolation of his sympathy. He also ad\ised ire to 
be silent henceforth on the subject of my ireov >m . 
for, knowing the character of J3urch, he assm *>? 



BAY, WILLIAMS AND KANDALL. 49 

that it would only be attended with renewed whip 
ping. The next eldest was named John Williams. He 
was raised in Virginia, not far from Washington. 
Burch had taken him in payment of a deht, and he 
constantly entertained the hope that his master would 
redeem him a hope that was subsequently realized. 
The lad was a sprightly child, that answered to the 
name of Randall. Most of the time he was playing 
about the yard, but occasionally would cry, calling 
for his mother, and wondering when she would come. 
His mother s absence seemed to be the great and only 
grief in his little heart. He was too young to realize 
his condition, and when the memory of his mother 
was not in his mind, he amused us with his pleasant 
pranks. 

At night, Eay, Williams, and the boy, slept in the 
loft of the shed, while I was locked in the cell. Fi 
nally we were each provided with blankets, such as 
are used upon horses the only bedding I was allow 
ed to have for twelve years afterwards. Ray and 
Williams asked me many questions about New- York 
how colored people were treated there ; how they 
could have homes and families of their own, with none 
to disturb and oppress them ; and Ray, especially, 
sighed continually for freedom. Such conversations, 
however, were not in the hearing of Burch, or the 
keeper Radburn. Aspirations such as these would 
have brought down the lash upon our backs. 

It is necessary in this narrative, in order to present 
a full and truthful statement of all the principal event? 



50 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

in the history of my life, and to portray the instil a 
tion of Slavery as I have seen and known it, to speak 
of well-known places, and of many persons who are 
yet living. I am, and always was, an entire stranger 
in Washington and its vicinity aside from Burch 
and Radburn, knowing no man there, except as I hava 
heard of them through my enslaved companions. 
What I am about to say, if false, can be easily con 
tradicted. 

I remained in Williams slave pen about two 
weeks. The night previous to my departure a woman 
was brought in, weeping bitterly, and leading by the 
hand a little child. They were Randall s mother and 
half-sister. On meeting them he was overjoyed, 
clinging to her dress, kissing the child, and exhibit 
ing every demonstration of delight. The mother also 
clasped him in her arms, embraced him tenderly, and 
gazed at him fondly through her tears, calling him by 
many an endearing name. 

Emily, the child, was seven or eight years old, of 
light complexion, and with a face of admirable beau 
ty. Her hair fell in curls around her neck, while the 
style and richness of her dress, and the neatness of 
her whole appearance indicated she had been brought 
up in the midst of wealth. She was a sweet child 
indeed. The woman also was arrayed in silk, with 
rings upon her fingers, and golden ornaments sus 
pended from her ears. Her air and manners, the cor 
rectness and propriety of her language - - all showed, 
evidently, that she had sometime stood above the 



MATERNAL SORROWS. 51 

common level of a slave. She seemed to be amazed 
at finding herself in such a place as that. It waa 
plainly a sudden and unexpected turn of fortune that 
had brought her there. Filling the air with her com 
plainings, she was hustled, with the children and my 
eelf, into the cell. Language can convey but an inad 
equate impression of the lamentations to which she 
gave incessant utterance. Throwing herself upon the 
floor, and encircling the children in her arms, she 
poured forth such touching words as only maternal 
love and kindness can suggest. They nestled closely 
to her, as if there only was there any safety or pro 
tection. At last they slept, their heads resting upon 
her lap. While they slumbered, she smoothed the 
hair back from their little foreheads, and talked to 
them all night long. She called them her darlings 
her sweet babes poor innocent things, that knew 
not the misery they were destined to endure. Soon 
they would have no mother to comfort them they 
would be taken from her. What would become of 
them ? Oh ! she could not live away from her little 
Emmy and her dear boy. They had always been 
good children, and had such loving ways. It would 
break her heart, God knew, she said, if they were ta 
ken from her ; and yet she knew they meant to sell 
them, and, may be, they would be separated, and 
could never see each other any more. It was enough 
co melt a heart of stone to listen to the pitiful ex 
pressions of that desolate and distracted mother. Ilei 



52 TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 

name was Eliza ; and this was the story of her life, as 
she afterwards related it : 

She was the slave of Elisha Berry, a rich man, liv 
ing in the neighborhood of Washington. She was 
born, I think she said, on his plantation. Years be 
fore, he had fallen into dissipated habits, and quarrel 
ed with his wife. In fact, soon after the birth of 
Randall, they separated. Leaving his wife and daugh 
ter in the house they had always occupied, he erected 
a new one near by, on the estate. Into this house he 
brought Eliza ; and, on condition of her living with 
him, she and her children were to be emancipated. 
She resided with him there nine years, with servant? 
to attend upon her, and provided with every comfort 
and luxury of life. Emily was his child ! Finally, 
her young mistress, who had always remained with 
her mother at the homestead, married a Mr. Jacob 
Brooks. At length, for some cause, (as I gathered 
from her relation,) beyond Berry s control, a division 
of his property was made. She and her children fell 
to the share of Mr. Brooks. During the nine years 
she had lived with Berry, in consequence of the posi 
tion she was compelled to occupy, she and Emily had 
oecome the object of Mrs. Berry and her daughter s 
hatred and dislike. Berry himself she represented as 
a man of naturally a kind heart, who always promis 
ed her that she should have her freedom, and who, 
she had no doubt, would grant it to her then, if it 
were only in his power. As soon as they thus came 



THE STORY OF ELIZA. 53 

into the possession and control of the daughter, it be 
came very manifest they would not live long together. 
The sight of Eliza seemed to be odious to Mrs. Brooks ; 
neither could she bear to look upon the child, half- 
sister, and beautiful as she was ! 

The day she was led into the pen, Brooks had 
brought her from the estate into the city, under pre 
tence that the time had come when her free papern 
were to be executed, in fulfillment of her master s 
promise. Elated at the prospect of immediate liber 
ty, she decked herself and little Emmy in their best 
apparel, and accompanied him with a joyful heart. 
On their arrival in the city, instead of being baptized 
into the family of freemen, she was delivered to the 
trader Burch. The paper that was executed was a 
bill of sale. The hope of years was blasted in a mo 
ment. From the hight of most exulting happiness 
to the utmost depths of wretchedness, she had that 
day descended. ~No wonder that she wept, and filled 
the pen with wailings and expressions of heart-rend 
ing woe. 

Eliza is now dead. Far up the Red River, wnere\ j 
it pours its waters sluggishly through the unhealthy , 
low lands of Louisiana, she rests in the grave at last 
the only resting place of the poor slave ! How all her / 
tears were realized how she mourned day and nigEl^ 
and never would be comforted how, as she predict 
ed, her heart did indeed break, with the burden oi 
maternal sorrow, will be seen as the narrative pro 
ceeds. 



CHAPTER IV. 



SORROWS - PREPARATION TO EMBARK - DRIVEN THROIOH THi 
STREETS OF WASHINGTON - HAIL, COLUMBIA - THE TOMB O7 WASHING 
TON - CLEM RAY - THE BREAKFAST ON TIJE STEAMER - THE HAl PT 
BIRDS - AQUIA CREEK - FREDERICKSBURGH - ARRIVAL IN RICHMOND 
GOODIN AND HIS SLAVE PEN - ROBERT, OF CINCINNATI - DAVID AND HIM 
WIFE - MARY AND LETHE - CLEM S RETURN - HIS SUBSEQUENT ESCAJ K 
TO CANADA - THE BRIG ORLEANS - JAMES H. BURCH. 

AT intervals during the first niglit of Eliza s incar 
ceration in the pen, she complained bitterly of Jacob 
Brooks, her young mistress husband. She declared 
that had she been aware of the deception he intended 
to practice upon her, he never would have brought 
her there alive. They had chosen the opportunity of 
getting her away when Master Berry was absent from 
the plantation. He had always been kind to her. 
She wished that she could see him ; but she knew that 
even he was unable now to rescue her. Then would 
she commence weeping again kissing the sleeping 
children talking first to one, then to the other, aa 
they lay in their unconscious slumbers, with their 
heads upon her lap. So wore the long night away ; 
and when the morning dawned, and night had come 
again, still she kept mourning on, and would not be 
consoled. 



PREPARATION TO EMBARK. 55 

About midnight following, the cell door opened, 
and Burch and Radburn entered, with lanterns in 
their hands. Burch, with an oath, ordered us to roll 
up our blankets without delay, and get ready to go 
on board the boat. He swore we would be left unless 
we hurried fast. He aroused the children from their 
slumbers with a rough shake, and said they were 
d d sleepy, it appeared. Going out into the yard, 
he called Clem Ray, ordering him to leave the loft 
and come into the cell, and bring his blanket with 
him. When Clem appeared, he placed us side by 
side, and fastened us together with hand-cuffs nry 
left hand to his right. John Williams had been ta 
ken out a day or two before, his master having 
redeemed him,, greatly to his delight. Clem and I 
were ordered to march, Eliza and the children fol 
lowing. We were conducted into the yard, from 
thence into the covered passage, and up a flight of 
steps through a side door into the upper room, where 
I had heard the walking to and fro. Its furniture was 
a stove, a few old chairs, and a long table, covered 
with papers. It was a white-washed room, without 
any carpet on the floor, and seemed a sort of office. 
By one of the windows, I remember, hung a rusty 
sword, which attracted my attention. Burch s trunk 
was there. In obedience to his orders, I took hold of 
one of its handles with my unfettered hand, while he 
taking hold of the other, we proceeded out of the 
front door into the street in the same order as we h&J 
left the cell. 



56 TWELVE YEAE8 A SLAVE. 

It was a dark niglit. All was quiet. I could see 
lights, or the reflection of them, over towards Penn 
sylvania Avenue, but there was no one, not even a 
straggler, to be seen. I was almost resolved tc at 
tempt to break away. Had I not been hand-cuffed 
the attempt would certainly have been made, what 
ever consequence might have followed. Radburn 
was in the rear, carrying a large stick, and hurrying 
up the children as fast as the little ones could walk, 
o we passed, hand-cuffed and in silence, through the 
streets of Washington through the Capital of a na 
tion, whose theory of government, we are told, rests 
on the foundation of man s inalienable right to life, 
LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness ! Hail ! Co 
lumbia, happy land, indeed ! ^ 

Reaching the steamboat, we were quickly hustled 
into the hold, among barrels and boxes of freight. A 
colored servant brought a light, the bell rung, and 
soon the vessel started down the Potomac, carrying 
us we knew not where. The bell tolled as we passed 
the tomb of Washington ! Burch, no doubt, with un 
covered head, bowed reverently before the sacred ash 
es of the man who devoted his illustrious life to the 
liberty of his country. 

None of us slept that night but Randall and little 
Emmy. For the first time Clem Ray was wholly 
overcome. To him the idea of going south was ter 
rible in the extreme. He was leaving the friends and 
associations of his youth every thing that was dear 
and precious to his heart in all probability never 



BREAKFAST ON THE STEAMER. 57 

to return. He and Eliza mingled tlieir tears together 
bemoaning their cruel fate. For my own part, diffi 
cult as it was, I endeavored to keep up my spirits. 1 
resolved in my mind a hundred plans of escape, and 
fully determined to make the attempt the first despe 
rate chance that offered. I had by this time become 
satisfied, however, that my true policy was to say no 
thing further on the subject of my having been born a 
freeman. It would but expose me to mal-treatment, 
and diminish the chances of liberation. 

After sunrise in the morning we were called up on 
deck to breakfast. Burch took our hand-cuffs off, and 
we sat down to table. He asked Eliza if she would 
take a . dram. She declined, thanking him politely. 
During the meal we were all silent not a word pass 
ed between us. A mulatto woman who served at ta 
ble seemed to take an interest in our behalf told us 
to cheer up, and not to be so cast down. Breakfast 
over, the hand-cuffs were restored, and Burch ordered 
us out on the stern deck. We sat down together on 
some boxes, still saying nothing in Burch s presence. 
Occasionally a passenger would walk out to where 
we were, look at us for a while, then silently return 

It was a very pleasant morning. The fields along 
the river were covered with verdure, far in advance 
of what I had been accustomed to see at that season 
of the year. The sun shone out warmly ; the birda 
were singing in the trees. The happy birds I en 
vied them. I wished for wings like them, that I 
might cleave the air to where my birdlings waited 



58 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

vaiiily for their father s coming, in the cooler region 
of the North. 

In the forenoon the steamer reached Aquia Creek. 
There the passengers took stages Burch and his five 
slaves occupying one exclusively. He laughed with 
the children, and at one stopping place went so far as 
to purchase them a piece of gingerbread. He told 
me to hold up my head and look smart. That J 
might, perhaps, get a good master if I behaved my 
self. I made him no reply. His face w r as hateful to 
me, and I could not bear to look upon it. I sat in 
the corner, cherishing in my heart the hope, not yet 
extinct, of some day meeting the tyrant on the soil of 
rny native State. 

At Fredericksburgh we were transferred from the 
stage coach to a car, and before dark arrived in Rich 
mond, the chief city of Virginia. At this city we 
were taken from the cars, and driven through the 
street to a slave pen, between the railroad depot and 
the river, kept by a Mr. Goodin. This pen is similai 
to Williams in Washington, except it is somewhat 
larger ; and besides, there - were two small houses 
standing at opposite corners within the yard. These 
houses are usually found within slave yards, being 
used as rooms for the examination of human chattels 
by purchasers before concluding a bargain. Un- 
eoundness in a slave, as well as in a horse, detracts 
materially from his value. If no warranty is gi^en, 
a close examination is a matter of particular impor 
tance to the negro jockey. 



GOODIN AND HIS STAVE PEN. 59 

We were met at the door of Goodin s yard by that 
gentleman himself a short, fat man, with a round, 
plump face, black hair and whiskers, and a complex 
ion almost as dark as some of his own negroes. He 
bad a hard, stern look, and was perhaps about fifty 
years of age. Burch and he met with great cordiali 
ty. They were evidently old friends. Shaking each 
other warmly by the hand, Burch remarked he had 
brought some company, inquired at what time the 
brig would leave, and was answered that it would 
probably leave the next day at such an hour. Good- 
in then turned to me, took hold of my arm, turned 
rne partly round, looked at me sharply with the air of 
one who considered himself a good judge of property, 
and as if estimating in his own mind about how 
much I was worth. 

" Well, boy, where did you come from ?" 

Forgetting myself, for a moment, I answered, 
" From New-York." 

" New- York ! H 1 ! what have you been doing 
up there ?" was his astonished interrogatory. 

Observing Burch at this moment looking at me with 
an angry expression that conveyed a meaning it was 
not difficult to understand, I immediately said, " O, I 
have only been up that way a piece," in a manner 
intended to imply that although I might have been as 
far as New- York, yet I wished it distinctl y understood 
that I did not belong to that free State, nor to any 
other. 

Good in then turned to Clem, and then to Eliza and 



60 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

the children, examining them severally, and asking 
various questions. He was pleased with Emily, as 
was every one who saw the child s sweet countenance. 
She was not as tidy as when I first beheld her ; her 
hair was now somewhat disheveled ; but through it* 
unkempt and soft profusion there still beamed a little 
face of most surpassing loveliness. " Altogether we 
were a fnir lot a devilish good lot," he said, enforc 
ing that opinion with more than one emphatic adjec 
tive not found in the Christian vocabulary. Thereup 
on we passed into the yard. Quite a number of 
slaves, as many as thirty I should say, were moving 
about, or sitting on benches under the shed. They 
were all cleanly dressed the men with hats, the wo 
men with handkerchiefs tied about their heads. 

Burch and Goodin, after separating from us, walk- 
od up the steps at the back part of the main building, 
and sat down upon the door sill. They entered into 
conversation, but the subject of it I could not hear. 
Presently Burch came down into the yard, unfettered 
me, and led me into one of the small houses. 

u You told that man you came from New- York," 
mid he. 

I replied, " I told him I had been up as far as New- 
i ork, to be sure, but did not tell him I belonged 
there, nor that I was a freeman. I meant no harm at 
all, Master Burch. I would not have said it had ] 
thought." 

He looked at me a moment as if he was ready to 
devour me, then turning round went out. In a fe\f 



KOBERT, OF CINCINNATI. 01 

minutes he returned. " If ever I hear you say a word 
about Xew-York, or about your freedom, I will be the 
death of you I will kill you ; you may rely on 
that," he ejaculated fiercely. 

I doubt not he understood then better than I did 
the danger and the psnalty of selling a free man into 
slavery. He felt the necessity of closing my mouth 
against the crime he knew he was committing. .Qf 
course, my life would not have weighed a feather, in 
any emergency requiring such a sacrifice. Undoubt 
edly, he meant precisely what he said. 

Under the shed on one side of the yard, there wa8 
constructed a rough table, while overhead were sleep 
ing lofts the same as in the pen at Washington. Af 
ter partaking at this table of our supper of pork and 
bread, I was hand-cuffed to a large yellow man, quite 
stout and fleshy, with a countenance expressive of 
the utmost melancholy. He was a man of intelli 
gence and information. Chained together, it was no 
long before we became acquainted with each other s 
history. His name was Robert. Like myself, he 
had been born free, and had a wife and two chil 
dren in Cincinnati. He said he had come south with 
two men, who had hired him in the city of his resi 
dence. Without free papers, he had been seized at 
Fredericksburgh, placed in confinement, and beaten 
until he had learned, as I had, the necessity and the 
policy of silence. He had been in Goodin s pen 
about three weeks. To this man I became much 
attached. We could sympathize with, and understand 



62 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

each other. It was with tears and a heavy heart, 
not many days subsequently, that I saw him die, and 
looked for the last time upon his lifeless form ! 

Robert and myself, with Clem, Eliza and her chil 
dren, slept that night upon our blankets, in one of the 
small houses in the yard. There were four others, all 
from the same plantation, who had been sold, and 
were now on their way south, who also occupied it 
with us. David and his wife, Caroline, both mulat- 
toes, were exceedingly affected. They dreaded the 
thought of being put into the cane and cotton fields ; 
but their greatest source of anxiety was the apprehen 
sion of being separated. Mary, a tall, lithe girl, of a 
most jetty black, was listless and apparently indiffer 
ent. Like many of the class, she scarcely knew there 
was such a word as freedom. Brought up in the ig 
norance of a brute, she possessed but little more than 
a brute s intelligence. She was one of those, and 
there are very many, who fear nothing but their mas 
ter s lash, and know no further duty than to obey his 
voice. The other was Lethe. She was of an entirely 
different character. She had long, straight hair, and 
bore more the appearance of an Indian than a negro 
woman. She had sharp and spiteful eyes, and con 
tinually gave utterance to the language of ha trod 
and revenge. Her husband had been sold. She 
knew not where she was. An exchange of masters, 
she was sure, could not be for the worse. She carec 
not whither they might carry her. Pointing to the 
&cars upon her face, the desperate creature wished 



CLEM EA5T. 63 

that she might see the day when she could wipe them 
off in some man s blood ! 

While we were thus learning the history of each 
other s wretchedness, Eliza was seated in a corner by 
herself, singing hymns and praying for her children 
Wearied from the loss of so much sleep, I could no 
longer bear up against the advances of that " sweet 
restorer," and laying down by the side of Robert, on 
the floor, soon forgot my troubles, and slept until the 
dawn of day. 

In the morning, having swept the yard, and wash 
ed ourselves, under Goodin s superintendence, we 
were ordered to roll up our blankets, and make ready 
for the continuance of our journey. Clem Ray was 
informed that he would go no further, Burch, for some 
cause, having concluded to carry him back to Wash 
ington. He was much rejoiced. Shaking hands, we 
parted in the slave pen at Richmond, and I have not 
seen him since. But, much to my surprise, since my\ 
return, I learned that he had escaped from bondage, , 
and on his way to the free soil of Canada, lodged one j 
night at the house of my brother-in-law in Saratoga, I 
informing my family of the place and the condition/ 
in which he left me. 

In the afternoon we were drawn up, two abreast, 
Robert and myself in advance, and in this order, driv 
en by Burch and Goodin from the yard, through the 
streets of Richmond to the brig Orleans. She was 
a vessel of respectable size, full rigged, and freighted 
principally with tobacco. We were all on board by 



64 TWELVE YEAEfi A SLAVE. 

five o clock. Burcli brought 119 eacli a tin cup and a 
spoon. There were forty of us in the brig, being all, 
except Clem, that were in the pen. 

With a small pocket knife that had not been taken 
from me, I began cutting the initials of rny name 
apon the tin cup. The others immediately flocked 
round me, requesting me to mark theirs in a similar 
manner. In time, I gratified them all, of which they 
did not appear to be forgetful. 

We were all stowed away in the hold at night, and 
the hatch barred down. We laid on boxes, or where- 
ever there was room enough to stretch our blankets 
on the floor. 

Burch accompanied us no farther than Richmond, 
returning from that point to the capital with Clem. 
Not until the lapse of almost twelve years, to wit, in 
January last, in the Washington police office, did I 
set my eyes upon his face again. 

James H. Burch was a slave-trader buying men, 
women and children at low prices, and selling them 
at an advance. He was a speculator in human flesh 
a disreputable calling and so considered a^ the 
South. For the present he disappears from the sc^nea 
recorded in this narrative, but he w^ill appear af ^,in 
before its close, not in the character of a man-w? \p- 
ping tyrant, but as an arrested, cringing crimina in 
a court of law, that failed to do him justice. 



CHAPTER V, 

1UBIVAL AT NORFOLK FREDERICK AND MARIA ARTHUR, THE FREE* AH 

APPOINTED STEWARD JIM, CUFFEE, AND JENNY THE STORM- I . A- 

HAMA BANKS THE CALM THE CONSPIRACY THE LONG BOAT T23 

SMALL-POX DEATH OF ROBERT MANNING, THE SAILOR THE MEETING 

IN THE FORECASTLE THE LETTER ARRIVAL AT NEW-ORLEANS AR- 

THUR S RESCUE -THEOPHILUS FREEMAN, THE CONSIGNEE PLATT FIRST 

NIGHT IN THE NEW-ORLEANS SLAVE PEN. 

AFTER we were all on board, the brig Orleans pro 
ceeded down James River. Passing into Chesapeake 
Bay, we arrived next clay opposite the city of Nor 
folk. While lying at anchor, a lighter approached 
us from the town, bringing four more slaves. Frede 
rick, a boy of eighteen, had been born a slave, as also 
had Henry, who was some years older. They had 
both been house servants in the city. Maria was a 
rather genteel looking colored girl, with a faultless 
form, but ignorant and extremely vain. The idea of 
going to New-Orleans was pleasing to her. She en 
tertained an extravagantly high opinion of her own 
attractions. Assuming a haughty mien, she declared 
to her companions, that immediately on our arrival 
in New-Orleans, she had no doubt, some wealthy sin 
gle gentleman of good taste would purchase her at 
once ! 



66 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

But the most prominent of tlie four, was a man 
named Arthur. As the lighter approached, lie strug 
gled stoutly with his keepers. It was with main 
force that he was dragged aboard the brig. He pro 
tested, in a loud voice, against the treatment he was 
receiving, and demanded to be released. His face 
was swollen, and covered with wounds and bruises, 
and, indeed, one side of it was a complete raw sore. 
He was forced, with all haste, down the hatchway 
into the hold. I caught an outline of his story as he 
was borne struggling along, of which he afterwards 
gave me a more full relation, and it w r as as follows : 
He had long resided in the city of Norfolk, and was 
a free man. He had a family living there, and was a 
/nrason by trade. Having been unusually detained, 
he was returning late one night to his house in the 
suburbs of the city, when he was attacked by a gang 
of persons in an unfrequented street. He fought 
until his strength failed him. Overpowered at last, 
he was gagged and bound with ropes, and beaten, 
until lie became insensible. For several days they 
secreted him in the slave pen at Norfolk a very 
common establishment, it appears, in the cities of the 
South. The night before, he had been taken out and 
put on board the lighter, which, pushing out from 
shore, had awaited our arrival. For some time he 
continued his protestations, and was altogether irrec 
oncilable. At length, however, he became silent. 
He sank into a gloomy and thoughtful mood, and ap 
peared to be counseling with himself. There w$s in 



JIM, CUFFEE AND JENNY. 67 

the man s determined face, something that suggested 
the thought of desperation. 

After leaving Norfolk the hand-cuffs were taken 
off, and during the day we were allowed to remain 
on deck. The captain selected Robert as his waiter, 
and I was appointed to superintend the cooking de 
partment, and the distribution of food and water. I 
had three assistants, Jim, Cuffee and Jenny. Jenny s 
business was to prepare the coifee, which consisted of 
corn meal scorched in a kettle, boiled and sweetened 
with molasses. Jim and Cuffee baked the hoe-cake 
and boiled the bacon. 

Standing by a table, formed of a wide board rest 
ing on the heads of the barrels, I cut and handed to 
each a slice of meat and a " dodger" of the bread, 
and from Jenny s kettle also dipped out for each a 
cup of the coifee. The use of plates was dispensed 
with, and their sable fingers took the place of knives 
and forks. Jim and Cuffee were very demure and 
attentive to business, somewhat inflated with their 
situation as second cooks, and without doubt feeling 

o 

that there was a great responsibility resting on them. 
I was called steward a name given me by the cap 
tain. 

The slaves were fed twice a day, at ten and five\ 
o clock always receiving the same kind and quantity \ 
of fare, and in the same manner as above described / 
A.t night we were driven into the hold, and securely 
fastened down. 

Scarcely were we out of sight of land before we 



f/8 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

were overtaken by a violent storm. The brig rolled 
and plunged until we feared she would go down. 
Some were seasick, others on their knees praying, 
while some wer fast holding to each other, paralyzed 
with fear. The sea-sickness rendered the place of our 
confinement loathsome and disgusting. It would 
have been a happy thing for most of us it would 
have saved the agony of many hundred lashes, and 
miserable deaths at last had the compassionate sea 
snatched us that day from the clutches of remorseless 
men. The thought of Randall and little Emmy sink 
ing down among the monsters of the deep, is a more 
pleasant contemplation than to think of them as they 
are now, perhaps, dragging out lives of unrequited 
toil. 

When in sight of the Bahama Banks, at a place 
called Old Point Compass, or the Hole in the Wall, 
we were becalmed three days. There was scarcely a 
breath of air. The waters of the gulf presented a 
singularly white appearance, like lime water. 
/In the order of events, I come now to the relation 
of an occuri cnce, which I never call to mind but with 
sensations of regret. I thank God, who has since 
permitted me to escape from the thralldom of slavery, 
that through his merciful interposition I was prevent- 
/ed from imbruing my hands in the blood of his crea- 
/ tures. Let not those who have never been placed in 
j like circumstances, jndge me harshly. Until they 
\ have been chained and beaten until they find them, 
in the situation I was, borne away from home 



THE CONSPIRACY. 69 

and family towards a land of bondage let them re 
frain from saying what they would not do for liberty. 
How far I should have been justified in the sight of 
(tod and man, it is unnecessary now to speculate upon. 
It is enough to say that I am able to congratulate 
myself upon. _tha_ harmless,. termination of an alfaii 
which threatened, for a time, to be attended with se 
rious results. 

Towards evening, on the first day of the calm, Ar 
thur and myself were in the bow of the vessel, seat 
ed on the windlass. We were conversing together of 
the probable destiny that awaited us, and mourning 
together over our misfortunes. Arthur said, and I 
agreed with him, that death was far less terrible than 
the living prospect that was before us. For a long 
time we talked of our children, our past lives, and of 
the probabilities of escape. Obtaining possession of 
the brig was suggested by one of us. We discussed 
the possibility of our being able, in such an event, to 
make our way to the harbor of New- York. I 
little of the compass ; but the idea of risking the ex 
periment was eagerly entertained. The chances, foi 
and against us, in an encounter with the crew, was 
canvassed. Who could be relied upon, and who 
could not, the proper time and manner of the attack, 
were all talked over and over again. From the mo 
ment the plot suggested itself I began to hope. I 
revolved it constantly in my mind. As difficulty af 
ter difficulty arose, some ready conceit was at hand, 
demonstrating how it could be overcome. While 






70 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVK 

Others slept, Arthur and I were maturing vjr plans. 
At length, with much caution, Robert was gradually 
made acquainted with our intentions. He approved 
of them at once, and entered into the conspiracy with 
~~zealous spirit. There was not another slave we 
dared to trust. Brought up in fear and ignorance as 
they are, it can scarcely be conceived how servilely 
they will cringe before a white inarms look. It was 
not safe to deposit so bold a secret with any of them, 
and finally we three resolved to take upon ourselves 
alone the fearful responsibility of the attempt. 

At night, as has been said, we were driven into the 
hold, and the hatch barred down. How to reach the 
deck was the first difficulty that presented itself. On 
the bow of the brig, however, I had observed the 
small boat lying bottom upwards. It occurred to me 
that by secreting ourselves underneath it, we would 
not be missed from the crowd, as they were hurried 
down into the hold at night. I was selected to make 
the experiment, in order to satisfy ourselves of its fea 
sibility. The next evening, accordingly, after supper, 
watching my opportunity, I hastily concealed myself 
beneath it. Lying close upon the deck, I could see 
what was going on around me, while wholly unper 
ceived myself. In the morning, as they came up, I 
slipped from my hiding place without being observed. 
The result was entirely satisfactory. 

The captain and mate slept in the cabin of the for 
mer. From Robert, who had frequent occasion, in 
his capacity of waiter, to make observations in that 



THE CONSPIRACY. 71 

quarter, we ascertained the exact position of their 
respective berths. He further informed us that there 
were always two pistols and a cutlass lying on the 
table. The crew s cook slept in the cook galley on 
deck, a sort of vehicle 011 wheels, that could be mov 
ed about as convenience required, while the sailors, 
numbering only six, either slept in the forecastle, or 
in hammocks swung among the rigging. 

Finally our arrangements were all completed. Ar- 
tlrir and I were to steal silently to the captain s cab 
in, seize the pistols and cutlass, and as quickly as possi 
ble despatch him and the mate. Robert, with a club, 
was to stand oy the door leading from the deck down 
into the cabK, and, in case of necessity, beat back the 
sailors, until we could hurry to his assistance. We 
were to p/oceed then as circumstances might require. 
Should the attack be so sudden and successful as to 
prevent resistance, the hatch was to remain barred 
down ; otherwise the slaves were to be called up, and 
in the crowd, and hurry, and confusion of the time, 
we resolved to regain our liberty or lose our lives. I 
was then to assume the unaccustomed place of pilot, 
and, steering northward, we trusted that some lucky 
wind might bear us to the soil of freedom. 

The mate s name was Biddee, the captain s I can 
not now recall, though I rarely ever forget a name 
once heard. The captain was a small, genteel man, 
erect and prompt, with a proud bearing, and looked 
the personification of courage. If he is still living, 
and these pages should chance to meet his eye, he 



72 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

will learn a fact connected with the voyage of thu 
brig, from Richmond to New-Orleans, in 1841, not 
entered on his log-book. 

We were all prepared, and impatiently waiting an 
opportunity of putting our designs into execution, 
when they were frustrated by a sad and unforeseen 
event. Robert was taken ill. It was soon announced 
that he had the small-pox. He continued to grow 
.worse, and four days previous to our arrival in New- 
Orleans he died. One of the sailors sewed him in his 
blanket, with a large stone from the ballast at his feet, 
and then laying him on a hatchway, and elevating it 
with tackles above the railing, the inanimate body of 
poor Robert was consigned to the white waters of the 
gulf. 

We were all panic-stricken by the appearance of 
the small-pox. The captain ordered lime to be scat 
tered through the hold, and other prudent precau 
tions to be taken. The death of Robert, however, and 
the p/esence of the malady, oppressed me sadly, and 
I gazed out over the great waste of waters with a 
spirit that was indeed disconsolate. 

An evening or two after Robert s burial, I was 
leaning on the hatchway near the forecastle, full of 
desponding thoughts, when a sailor in a kind voice 
asked me why I was so down-hearted. The tone and 
manner of the man assured me, and I answered, be 
cause I was a freeman, and had been kidnapped. 
He remarked that it was enough to make any one 
down-hearted, and continued to interrogate me until 



MANNING, THE SAILOR. 73 

he learned the particulars of my whole history. He 
was evidently -much interested in my behalf, and, in 
the blunt speech of a sailor, swore he would aid me 
all he could, if it " split his timbers." I requested 
him to furnish me pen, ink and paper, in order that 1 
might write to some of my friends. He promised to 
obtain them but how I could use them undiscover 
ed was a difficulty. If I could only get into the fore 
castle while his watch was off, and the other sailors 
asleep, the thing could be accomplished. The small 
boat instantly occurred to me. He thought we were 
not far from the Balize, at the mouth of the Mississip 
pi, and it was necessary that the letter be written 
soon, or the opportunity would be lost. Accordingly / 
by arrangement, I managed the next night to secret 
myself again under the long-boat. His watch was off 
at twelve. I saw him pass into the forecastle, and in 
about an hour followed him. He was nodding over 
a table, half asleep, on which a sickly light was flick 
ering, and on which also was a pen and sheet of pa 
per. As I entered he aroused, beckoned me to a seat 
beside him, and pointed to the paper. I directed the 
letter to Henry B. Northup, of Sandy Hill stating 
that I had been kidnapped, was then on board the 
brig Orleans, bound for New-Orleans ; that it was 
then impossible for me to conjecture my ultimate des 
tination, and requesting he would take measures to 
rescue me. The letter was sealed and directed, and 
Manning, having read it, promised to deposit it in the 
New-Orleans post-office. I hasten ed back to my place 



74 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

under the long-boat, and in the morning, as the siavets 
came up and were walking round, crept out unno 
ticed and mingled with them. 

My good friend, whose name was John Manning, 
was an Englishman by birth, and a noble-hearted 
generous sailor as ever walked a deck, lie had lived 
in Boston was a tall, well-built man, about twenty 
four years old, with a face somewhat pock-marked, 
but full of benevolent expression. 

Nothing to vary the monotony of our daily life oc 
curred, until we reached New-Orleans. On coming 
to the levee, and before the vessel was made fast, I 
saw Manning leap on shore and hurry away into the 
city. As he started off he looked back over his shoul 
der significantly, giving me to understand the object 
of his errand. Presently he returned, and passing 
close by me, hunched me with his elbow, with a pe 
culiar wink, as much as to say, " it is all right." 

The letter, as I have since learned, reached Sandy 
Hill. Mr. Northup visited Albany and laid it before 
Governor Seward, but inasmuch as it gave no definite 
information as to my probable locality, it was not, at 
that time, deemed advisable to institute measures for 
my liberation. It was concluded to delay, trusting 
that a knowledge of where I was might eventually be 
obtained. 

A happy and touching scene was witnessed imme 
diately upon our reaching the levee. Just as Man 
ning left the brig, on his way to the post-office, two 
men came up and called aloud for Arthur. The lat- 



ARTHUR S RESCUE. 75 

ter, as he recognized them, was almost crazy with de 
light. He could hardly be restrained from leaping 
over the brig s side ; and when they met soon after, 
le grasped them by the hand, and clung to them a 
Jong, long time. They were men from Norfolk, wlic 
had come on to New-Orleans to rescue him. His 
kidnappers, they informed him, had been arrested, 
and were then confined in the Norfolk prison. They 
conversed a few moments with the captain, and then 
departed with the rejoicing Arthur. 

But in all the crowd that thronged the wharf, there 
was no one who knew 01 cared for me. Not one. 
No familiar voice greeteu my ears, nor was there a 
single face that I had ever seen. Soon Arthur would 
rejoin his family, and have the satisfaction of seeing 
his wrongs avenged : my family, alas, should I ever 
see them more ? There was a feeling of utter deso 
lation in my heart, filling it with a despairing and re 
gretful sense, that I had not gone down with Robert 
to the bottom of the sea. 

Yery soon traders and consignees came on board. 
One, a tall, thin-faced man, with light complexion 
and a little bent, made his appearance, with a papei 
in his hand. Burch s gang, consisting of myself, Eli 
za and her children, Harry, Lethe, and some others, 
who had joined us at Richmond, were consigned to 
him. This gentleman was Mr. Theophilus Freeman. 
Reading from his paper, he called, " Platt." No one 
answered. The name was called again and again, but 
still there was no reply. Then Lethe was called, then 



76 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

Eliza, then Harry, until the list was finished, each 
one stepping forward as his or her name was called. 

"Captain, where s Platt?" demanded Theophilus 
Freeman. 

The captain was unable to inform him, no one he- 
ing on hoard answering to that name. 

"Who shipped that nigger?" he again inquired of 
Jie captain, pointing to me. 

" Burch," replied the captain. 

" Your name is Platt you answer my description. 
Why don t you come forward ?" he demanded of me, 
in an angry tone. 

I informed him that was not my name ; that I had 
never heen called hy it, hut that I had no objection 
to it as I knew of. 

" Well, I will learn you your name," said he ; " and 
BO you won t forget it either, by - ," he added. 

Mr. Theophilus Freeman, by the way, was not a 
whit behind his partner, Burch, in the matter of blas 
phemy. On the vessel I had gone by the name of 
"Steward," and this was the first time I had ever 
been designated as Platt the name forwarded by 
Burch to his consignee. From the vessel I observ 
ed the chain-gang at work on the levee. We passed 
near them as we were driven to Freeman s slave pen. 
This pen is very similar to Goodin s in Richmond, ex 
cept the yard was enclosed by plank, standing up 
right, with ends sharpened, instead of brick walls. 

Including us, there were now at least fifty in this 
pen. Depositing our blankets in one of the smal 1 



FIRST NIGHT IN NEW-OKLEANS. 77 

buildings in the yard, and having been called up and 
fed, we were allowed to saunter about the enclosure 
until night, when we wrapped our blankets round us 
and laid down under the shed, or in the loft, or in the 
open yard, just as each one preferred. 

It was but a short time I closed my eyes that night. 
Thought was busy in my brain. Could it be possible 
that I was thousands of miles from home that I had 
been driven through the streets like a dumb beast 
that I had been chained and beaten without mercy 
that I was even then herded with a drove of slaves, a 
slave myself? Were the events of the last few weeks 
realities indeed ? or was I passing only through the 
dismal phases of a long, protracted dream ? It was 
no illusion. My cup of sorrow was full to overflow 
ing. Then I lifted up my hands to God, and in the 
still watches of the night, surrounded by the sleeping 
forms of my companions, begged for mercy on the 
poor, forsaken captive. To the Almighty Father of 
us all the freeman and the slave I poured forth 
the supplications of a broken spirit, imploring strength 
from on high to bear up against the burden of my 
troubles, until the morning light aroused the slumber 
ers, ushering in another day of bondage. 



CHAPTER VI. 

HUCKMAN S INDUSTRY CLEANLINESS AM> CLOTHES EXERCISING FN THI 
SHOW ROOM THE DANCE BOB, THE FIDDLER ARRIVAL OF CUSTOM 
ERS SLAVES EXAMINED THE OLD GENTLEMAN OF NEW-ORLEANS 

SALE OF DAVID, CAROLINE AND LETHE PARTING OF RANDALL AND 

ELIZA SMALL POX THE HOSPITAL RECOVERY AND RETURN TO 

FREEMAN S SLAVE PEN THE PURCHASER OF ELIZA, HARRY AND PLAT 
ELIZA S AGONY ON PARTING FROM LITTLE EMILY 

THE very amiable, pious-hearted Mr. Theophilus 
Freeman, partner or consignee of James IT. Burcli, 
and keeper of the slave pen in New-Orleans, was out 
among his animals early in the morning. With an 
occasional kick of the older men and women, and 
many a sharp crack of the whip about the ears of the 
younger slaves, it was not long before they were all 
astir, and wide awake. Mr. Theophilus Freeman 
bustled about in a very industrious manner, getting 
his property ready for the sales-room, intending, no 
doubt, to do that day a rousing business. 

Tn the first place we were required to wash thorough 
ly, and those with beards, to shave. We were then 
furnished with a new suit each, cheap, but clean. 
The men had hat, coat, shirt, pants and shoes ; the 
women frocks of calico, and handkerchiefs to bind 
about their heads. We were now conducted into a 
large room in the front part of the building to which 



FREEMAJSr s INDUSTRY. 79 

the yard was attached, in order to be properly trained, 
before the admission of customers. The men were 
arranged on one side of the room, the women on the 
other. The tallest was placed at the head of the row, 
then the next tallest, and so on in the order of their 
respective heights. Emily was at the foot of the 
line of women. Freeman charged us to remem 
ber our places ; exhorted us to appear smart and live 
ly, sometimes threatening, and again, holding out 
various inducements. During the day lie exercised 
us in the art of " looking smart," and of moving to 

O O 

our places with exact precision. 

After being fed, in the afternoon, we were again 
paraded and made to dance. Bob, a colored boy, 
who had some time belonged to Freeman, played on 
the violin. Standing near him, I made bold to in 
quire if he could play the " Virginia Reel." lie an 
swered he could not, and asked me if I could play. 
Replying in the affirmative, he handed me the violin. 
I struck up a tune, and finished it. Freeman ordered 
me to continue playing, and seemed well pleased, 
telling Bob that I far excelled him a remark that 
seemed to grieve my musical companion v3iy much. 

Next day many customers called to examine Free 
man s " new lot." The latter gentleman was very 
loquacious, dwelling at much length upon our several 
good points and qualities. He would make us hold 
up our heads, walk briskly bsrck and forth, while cus 
tomers would feel of our hands and arms and. bodies, 
turn us about, ask us what we could do, make MS ope*) 






80 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 



our mouths and show our teeth, precisely as a jockey 
examines a horse which he is about to barter for or 
purchase. Sometimes a man or woman was taken 
back to the small house in the yard, stripped, and in 
spected more minutely. Scars upon a slave s back 
were considered evidence of a rebellious or unrulj 
\ spirit, and hurt his sale. 

One old gentleman, who said he wanted a coach 
man, appeared to take a fancy to me. From his con 
versation with Freeman, I learned he was a resident in 
the city. I very much desired that he would buy me, 
because I conceived it would not be difficult to make 
my escape from New-Orleans on some northern vessel. 
Freeman asked him fifteen hundred dollars for me. 
The old gentleman insisted it was too much, as times 
were very hard. Freeman, however, declared that I 
was sound and healthy, of a good constitution, and 
intelligent. He made it a point to enlarge upon my 
musical attainments. The old gentleman argued 
quite adroitly that there was nothing extraordinary 
about the nigger, and finally, to my regret, went out, 
saying he would call again. During the day, how 
ever, a number of sales were made. David and Car 
oline were purchased together by a Natchez planter, 
They left us, grinning broadly, and in the most happy 
state of mind, caused by the fact of their not being sep 
arated. Lethe was sold to a planter of Baton Rouge, 
her eyes flashing with anger as she was led away. 

The same man also purchased Randall. The little 
fellow was made to jump, and run across the floor, 



PARTING OF RANDALL AND ELIZA. 81 

and perform many other feats, exhibiting his activity 
and condition. All the time the trade was going on, 
Eliza was crying aloud, and wringing her hands. She \ 
besought the man not to buy him, unless he also j 
bought herself and Emily. She promised, in that case, . 
to be the most faithful slave that ever lived. The/ 
man answered that he could not afford it, and then 
Eliza burst into a paroxysm of grief, weeping plain 
tively. Freeman turned round to her, savagely, with 
his whip in his uplifted hand, ordering her to stop her 
noise, or he would flog her. He would not have such 
work such snivelling; and unless she ceased that 
minute, he would take her to the yard and give her a 
hundred lashes. Yes, he would take the nonsense out 
of her pretty quick if he didn t, might he be d d. 
Eliza shrunk before him, and tried to wipe away hei 
tears, but it was all in vain. She wanted to be wit 
her children, she said, the little time she had to live. 
All the frowns and threats of Freeman, could no 
wholly silence the afflicted mother. She kept on beg 
ging and beseeching them, most piteously, not to sep 
arate the three. Over and over again she told them 
how she loved her boy. A great many times she 
repeated her former promises how very faithful and 
obedient she would be ; how hard she would labor 
day and night, to the last moment of her life, if he 
would only buy them all together. But it was of no 
avail ; the man could not afford it. The bargain was 
agreed upon, and Randall must go alone. Then Eli 
za, ran to him ; embraced him passionately ; kissed 

D* 6 



82 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

him again and again; told him to remember her 
all the while her tears falling in the boy s face like rain. 

Freeman damned her, calling her a blubbering, 
oawling wench, and ordered her to go to her place, 
and behave herself, and be somebody. He swore he 
wouldn t stand such stuff but a little longer. lie 
would soon give her something to cry about, if she 
was not mighty careful, and that she might depend 
upon. 

The planter from Baton Eouge, with his new pur 
chases, was ready to depart. 

" Don t cry, mama. I will be a good boy. Don t 
cry," said Randall, looking back, as they passed out 
of the door. 

"What has become of the lad, God knows. It waa 
a mournful scene indeed. I would have cried myself 
if I had dared. 

That night, nearly all who came in on the brig Or 
leans, were taken ill. They complained of violent 
pain in the head and back. Little Emily a tiling 
unusual with her cried constantly. In the morn 
ing a physician was called in, but was unable to de 
termine the nature of our complaint. While examin 
ing me, and asking questions touching my symptoms, 
I gave it as my opinion that it was an attack of small 
pox mentioning the fact of Robert s death as the 
reason of my belief. It might be so indeed, he thought, 
and he would send for the head physician of the hos 
pital. Shortly, the head physician came a small, 
light-haired in an, whom they called Dr. Caiv. lie 



SMALL-POX. 83 

pronounced it small-pox, whereupon there was much 
alarm throughout the yard. Soon after Dr. Carr left, 
Eliza, Emmy, Harry and myself were put into a hack 
and driven to the hospital a large white marble 
building, standing on the outskirts of the city. Har 
ry and I were placed in a room in one of the upper 
stories. I became very sick. For three days I was"^ 
entirely blind. While lying in this state one day, 
Bob came in, saying to Dr. Carr that Freeman had 
sent him over to inquire how we were getting on. 
Tell him, said the doctor, that Platt is very bad, but 
that if he survives until nine o clock, he may recover. 
^ I expected to die. Though there was little in the 
prospect before me worth living for, the near approach 
of death appalled me. I thought I could have been 
resigned to yield up my life in the bosom of my family, 
but to expire in the midst of strangers, under such 
circumstances, was a bitter reflection. 

There were a great number in the hospital, of both 
sexes, and of all ages. In the rear of the building 
coffins were manufactured. When one died, the bell 
tolled a signal to the undertaker to come and bear 
away the body to the potter s field. Many times, each 
day and night, the tolling bell sent forth its melan 
choly voice, announcing another death. But my time 
had not yet come. The crisis having passed, I began tc 
revive, and at the end of two weeks and two days, 
returned with Harry to the pen, bearing upon my 
face the effects of the malady, which to this day con 
tinues to disfigure it. Eliza and Emily were also 



84 TWELVE YEAUS A SLAVE. 

brought back next day in a hack, and again were we 
paraded in the sales-room, for the inspection and ex 
amination of purchasers. I still indulged the hope 
that the old gentleman in search of a coachman would 
call again, as he had promised, and purchase me. In 
that event I felt an abiding confidence that I would 
soon regain my liberty. Customer after customer 
entered, but the old gentleman never made his ap 
pearance. 

At length, one day, while we were in the yard, 
Freeman came out and ordered us to our places, in 
the great room. A gentleman was waiting for us as 
we entered, and inasmuch as he will be often men 
tioned in the progress of this narrative, a description 
of his personal appearance, and my estimation of his 
character, at first sight, may not be out of place. 

He was a man above the ordinary height, some 
what bent and stooping forward. He was a good- 
looking man, and appeared to have reached about the 
middle age of life. There was nothing repulsive in 
his presence ; but on the other hand, there was some 
thing cheerful and attractive in his face, and in his 
tone of voice. The finer elements were all kindly 
mingled in his breast, as any one could see. He 
moved about among us, asking many questions, as to 
what we could do, and what labor we had been ac 
customed to ; if we thought we would like to live 
with him, and would be good boys if lie would buy 
as, and other interrogatories of like character. 

After some further inspection, and conversation 



ELIZA S PARTING FROM EMILY. 85 



touching prices, lie finally offered Freeman one 0:ou 
sand dollars for me, nine hundred for Harry, and sev 
en hundred for Eliza. Whether the small-pox had; 
depreciated our value, or from what cause Freeman: 
had concluded to fall five hundred dollars from the 
price I was before held at, I cannot say. At any rate, 
after a little shrewd reflection, he announced his ac 
ceptance of the offer. 

As soon as Eliza heard it, she was in an agony 
again. By this time she had become haggard and 
hollow-eyed with sickness and with sorrow. It would 
be a relief if I could consistently pass over in silence 
the scene that now ensued. It recalls memories more 
mournful and affecting than any language can por 
tray. I have seen mothers kissing for the last time 
the faces of their dead offspring ; I have seen them 
looking down into the grave, as the earth fell with a 
dull sound upon their coffins, hiding them from their 
eyes forever ; but never have I seen such an exhibi 
tion of intense, unmeasured, and unbounded grief, as 
when Eliza was parted from her child. She broke 
from her place in the line of women, and rushing down 
where Emily was standing, caught her in her arms. 
The child, sensible of some impending danger, instinct 
ively fastened her hands around her mother s neck 
and nestled her little head upon her bosom. Free 
man sternly ordered her to be quiet, but she did not 
heed him. He caught her by the arm and pulled her 
rudely, but she only clung the closer to the child. 
Then, with a volley of great oaths, he struck her such 



W( 



86 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

a heartless blow, that she staggered backward, and 
/ was like to fall. Oh ! how piteously then did she be 
seech and beg and pray that they might not be sepa 
rated. Why could they not be purchased together \ 
, Why not let her have one of her dear children ( 
A ~" Mercy, mercy, master ! " she cried, falling on her 
knees. " Please, master, buy Emily. I can never 
rork any if she is taken from me : I will die." 

Freeman interfered again, but, disregarding him, 
she still plead most earnestly, telling how Randall had 
been taken from her how she never would see him 
again, and now it was too bad oh, God ! it was too 
bad, too cruel, to take her away from Emily her 
pride her only darling, that could not live, it was 
so young, without its mother ! 

Finally, after much more of supplication, the pur 
chaser of Eliza stepped forward, evidently affected, 
and said to Freeman he would buy Emily, and asked 
him what her price was. 

" What is her price f Buy her ?" was the respon- 
^sive interrogatory of Theophilus Freeman. And in- 
( stantly answering his own inquiry, he added, " I won t 
\ sell her. She s not for sale. 

f Trie man remarked he was not in need of one so 
voung that it would be of no profit to him, but 
since the mother was so fond of her, rather than see 
them separated, he would pay a reasonable price. 
But to this humane proposal Freeman was entirely 
/ deaf. He would not sell her then on any account 
whatever. There were heaps and piles of money to 



FREEMAN REFUSES TO SELL EMILY. 87 

be made of her, he said, when she was a few years 
older. There were men enough in New-Orleans who 
would give five thousand dollars for such an extra, 
handsome, fancy piece as Emily would be, rather than 
not get her. (No, no, he woiud not sell her then. 
She was a beauty a picture a doll one of the 
regular bloods -<^one of your thick-lipped, bullet- 
headed, cotton-picking niggers\- if she was might he 
be d d. 

When Eliza heard Freeman s determination not to 
part with Emily, she became absolutely frantic. 

" I will not go without her. They shall not take 
her from me," she fairly shrieked, her shrieks com 
mingling with the loud and angry voice of Freeman, 
commanding her to be silent. 

Meantime Harry and myself had been to the yard 
and returned with our blankets, and were at the front 
door ready to leave. Our purchaser stood near us, 
gazing at Eliza with an expression indicative of re 
gret at having bought her at the expense of so much 
sorrow. We waited some time, when, finally, Free 
man, out of patience, tore Emily from her mother by 
main force, the two clinging to each other with all 
their might. 

" Don t leave me, mama don t leave me," scream 
ed the child, as its mother was pushed harshly for 
ward ; " Don t leave me come back, mama," she still 
cried, stretching forth her little arms imploringly. 
But she cried in vain. Out of the door and into the 
street we were quickly hurried. Still we could hear 



88 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

her calling to her mother, " Comeback don t leave 
me come back, mama," until her infant voice grew 
faint and still more faint, and gradually died away, 
as distance intervened, and finally was wholly lost. 

"TSEliza never after saw or heard of Emily or Randall. 
Day nor night, however, were they ever absent from 

/her memory. In the cotton field, in the cabin, al 
ways and everywhere, she was talking of them often 
to them, as if they were actualty present. Only 
when absorbed in that illusion, or asleep, did she ever 
have a moment s comfort afterwards. 

She was no common slave, as has been said. To a 
large share of natural intelligence which she possess 
ed, was added a general knowledge and information 
:>n most subj ects. She had enj oy ed opportunities such 
as are afforded to very few of her oppressed class. 
She had been lifted up into the regions of a higher 
life. Freedom freedom for herself and for her off 
spring, for many years had been her cloud by day, 
her pillar of fire by night. In her pilgrimage through 
the wilderness of bondage, with eyes fixed upon that 
hope-inspiring beacon, she had at length ascended to 
" the top of Pisgah," and beheld " the land of prom 
ise." In an unexpected moment she was utterly over 
whelmed with disappointment and despair. The glo 
rious vision of liberty faded from her sight as they led 
her away into captivity. Now " she weepeth sore in 
the night, and tears are on her cheeks : all her friends 
Inive dealt treacherously with her: they have become 
her enemies." 



CHAPTER VII. 

fid. STEAMBOAT RODOLPH DEPARTURE FROM NEW-ORLKAXw -WIit,IA 

FORD ARRIVAL AT ALEXANDRIA, ON RED RIVER RESOLIH ,o>*S TU4 

GREAT PINE WOODS WILD CATTLE MARTIN S SUMMER RESIDENT* 

THE TEXAS ROAD ARRIVAL AT MASTER FORD s ROSE MLSTKWW 

FORD SALLY, AND HER CHILDREN JOHN, THE COOK WALTER, SAM, 

AND ANTONY THE MILtS ON INDIAN CREEK SABBATH DAY* 

SAM S CONVERSION THE PROFIT OF KINDNESS RAFTING ADAM T \ T- 

DEM, THE LITTLE WHITE MAN CASCALLA AND HIS TRIBE THE INDIAN 

BALL JOHN M. TIBEATS THE STORM APPROACHING. 

ON leaving the New-Orleans slave pen, Harry and 
I followed our new master through the streets, while 
Eliza, crying and turning back, was forced along by 
Freeman and his minions, until we found ourselves on 
board the steamboat Rodolph, then lying at the levee. 
In the course of half an hour we were moving briskly 
up the Mississippi, bound for some point on Ked Elv 
er. There were quite a number of slaves on board 
beside ourselves, just purchased in the New-Orleans 
market. I remember a Mr. Kelsow, who was said to 
be a well known and extensive planter, had in charge 
a gang of women. 

Our master s name was William Ford. He resided 
then -in the " Great Pine Woods," in the parish of 
Avoyelles, situated on the v ight bank of Red River, 



90 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

in the heart of Louisiana. He is now a Baptist 
preacher. Throughout the whole parish of Avoyelles, 
and especially along both shores of Bayou Bceuf, 
where he is more intimately known, he is accounted 
by his fellow-citizens as a worthy minister of God. 
In many northern minds, perhaps, the idea of a man 
holding his brother man in servitude, and the traffic 
iii human flesh, may seem altogether incompatible 
with their conceptions of a moral or religious life. 
From descriptions of such men as Burch and Freeman, 
and others hereinafter mentioned, they are led to de 
spise and execrate the whole class of slaveholders, in 
discriminately. But I was sometime his slave, and 
had an opportunity of learning well his character and 
disposition, and it is but simple justice to him when 1 
say, in my opinion, there never was a more kind, no 
ble, candid, Christian man than William Ford. The 
influences and associations that had always surround 
ed him, blinded him to the inherent wrong at the bot 
tom of the system of Slavery. He never doubted the 
moral right of one man holding another in subjection. 
Looking through the same medium with his fathers 
before him, he saw things in the same light. Brought 
up under other circumstances and other influences, 
his notions would undoubtedly have been different 
Nevertheless, he was a model master, walking up 
rightly, according to the light of his understanding, 
and fortunate was the slave who came to his posses 
sion. Were all men such as he, Slavery would be de 
prived of more than half its bitterness. 



WILLIAM FORD. 91 

We were two days and three nights on board the 
tteainhnat Kodolph, during which time nothing of 
particular interest occurred. I was now known as 
Platt, the name given me by Burch, and by which I 
was designated through the whole period of my ser 
vitude. Eliza was sold by the name of " Dradey." 
She was so distinguished in the conveyance to Ford, 
now on record in the recorder s office in New-Or 
leans. 

On our passage I was constantly reflecting on my sit 
uation, and consulting with myself on the best course 
to pursue in order to effect my ultimate escape. 
Sometimes, not only then, but afterwards, I was al 
most on the point of disclosing fully to Ford the facts 
of my history. I am inclined now to the opinion it 
would have resulted in my benefit. This course was 
often considered, but through fear of its miscarriage, 
never put into execution, until eventually my transfer 
and his pecuniary embarrassments rendered it evi 
dently unsafe. Afterwards, under other masters, un 
like William Ford, I knew well enough the slightest 
knowledge of my real character would consign me at 
once to the remoter depths of Slavery. I was too 
costly a chattel to be lost, and was well aware that I 
would be taken farther on, into some by-place, ovei 
the Texan border, perhaps, and sold ; that I would b< 
disposed of as the thief disposes of his stolen horse, if 1 
my right to freedom was even whispered. So I re- 
Bolved to .ock the secret closely in my heart never 
to utter one word or syllable as to who or what I wi 



92 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

trusting in Providence and my own shrewdness foi 
deliverance. 

At length we left the steamboat Rodolph at a place 
called Alexandria, several hundred miles from New- 
Orleans. It is a small town on the southern shore 
of lied Biver. Having remained there over night, 
we entered the morning train of cars, and were soon 
it Bayou Lamourie, a still smaller place, distant 
eighteen miles from Alexandria. At that time it was 
<he termination of the railroad. Ford s plantation 
was situated on the Texas road, twelve miles from 
Lamourie, in the Great Pine Woods. This distance, it 
was announced to us, must be traveled on foot, there 
being public conveyances no farther. Accordingly 
we all set out in the company of Ford. It was an ex 
cessively hot day. Harry, Eliza, and myself were yet 
weak, and the bottoms of our feet were very tender 
from the effects of the small-pox. We proceeded 
slowly, Ford telling us to take our time and sit down 
and rest whenever we desired a privilege that was 
taken advantage of quite frequently. After leaving 
Lamourie and crossing two plantations, one belong 
ing to Mr. Carnell, the other to a Mr. Flint, we reach 
ed the Pine Woods, a wilderness that stretches to the 
Sabine River. 

The whole country about lied River is low and 
marshy. The Pine Woods, as they are called, is com 
paratively upland, with frequent small intervals, how 
ever, running through them. This upland is covered 
with numerous trees the white oak, the ohincopin, 



ARRIVAL AT ALEXANDRIA. 93 

resembling chestnut, but principally the yellow pine. 
They are of great size, running up sixty feet, and per 
fectly straight. The woods were full of cattle, very 
shy and wild, dashing aAvay in herds, with a loud 
snuff, at our approach. Some of them were marked 
or branded, the rest appeared to be in their wild and 
untamed state. They are much smaller than northern 
breeds, and the peculiarity about them that most at 
tracted my attention was their horns. They stand 
out from the sides of the head precisely straight, like 
two iron spikes. 

At noon we reached a cleared piece of ground con 
taining three or four acres. Upon it was a small, un- 
painted, wooden house, a corn crib, or, as we would 
say, a barn, and a log kitchen, standing about a rod 
from the house. It was the summer residence of Mr. 
Martin. Rich planters, having large establishments 
on Bayou Boeuf, are accustomed to spend the warmer 
season in these woods. Here they find clear water 
and delightful shades. In fact, these retreats are to 
the planters of that section of the country what New 
port and Saratoga are to the wealthier inhabitants cf 
northern cities. 

We were sent around into the kitchen, and supplied 
with sweet potatoes, corn-bread, and bacon, while 
Master Ford dined with Martin in the house. There 
were several slaves about the premises. Martin came 
out and took a look at us, asking Ford the price of 
each, if we were green hands, and so forth, and making 
inquiries in relation to the slave market generally 



94 TWKLVK TEAKS A SLAVE. 

Alt or ;i Ion*; rest we sot forth again, following the 

Texas road, which had the appearance of being very 

\ rarely traveled. For five miles we passed through 

* continuous woods without observing a single habita 

/ tion. At length, just as the sun was sinking in the 

/ west, we entered another opening, containing some 

Vtwelve or fifteen acres. 

In this opening stood a house much larger than Mr 
Martin s. It was two stories high, with a piazza in 
front. In the rear of it was also a log kitchen, poul 
try house, corncribs, and several negro cabins. Near 
the house was a peach orchard, and gardens of orange 
"7 and pomegranate trees. The space was entirely sur 
rounded by woods, and covered with a carpet of rich, 
rank verdure. It was. a quiet, lonely, pleasant place 
literally a green spot in the wilderness. It was the 
residence of my master, William Ford. 

As we approached, a yellow girl her name was 
Rose was standing on the piazza. Going to the 
door, she called her mistress, who presently came run 
ning out to meet her lord. She kissed him, and 
laughingly demanded if he had bought u those ing- 
gel s." Ford said he had, and told us to go round to 
Sally s cabin and rest ourselves. Turning the corner 
of the house, we discovered Sally washing her two 
baby children near her, rolling on the grass. Thev 
jumped up and toddled towards us, looked at us a 
moment like a brace of rabbits, then ran back to their 
mother as if afraid ot u>. 

Sallv conducted us into he cabin, told us to av down 



95 

our bundles and be seated, for she was sure that we were 
tired. Just then John, the cook, a boy some sixteen 
years of age, and blacker than any crow, came run 
ning in, looked steadily in our faces, then turning 
round, without saying as much as "how d ye do," 
ran back to the kitchen, laughing loudly, as if our 
corning was a great joke indeed. 

Much wearied with our walk, as soon as it was 
dark, Harry and I wrapped our blankets round us, 
arid laid down upon the cabin floor. My thoughts, 
as usual, wandered back to my wife and children. 
The consciousness of my real situation ; the hopeless 
ness of any effort to escape through the wide forests 
of Avoyelles, pressed heavily upon me, yet my heart 
was at home in Saratoga. 

I. was awakened early in the morning by the voice 
of Master Ford, calling Hose. She hastened into the 
house to dress the children, Sally to the field to milk 
the cows, while John was busy in the kitchen prepar 
ing breakfast. In the meantime Harry and I were 
strolling about the yard, looking at our new quarters. 
Just after breakfast a colored man, driving three yoke 
of oxen, attached to a wagon load of lumber, drove 
into the opening. He was a slave of Ford s, named 
Walton, the husband of Hose. By the way, Rose was 
a native of Washington, and had been brought from 
thence five years before. She had never seen Eliza, 
but she had heard of Herry, and they knew the same 
streets, and the same people, either personally, or by 
reputation. They became fast friends immediately, 



96 TWELVE TEARS A SLATE. 

and taiked a great deal together of old times, and of 
friends they had left behind. 

Ford was at that time a wealthy man. Besides his 
seat in the Pine Woods, he owned a large lumbering 
establishment on Indian Creek, four miles distant, and 
also, in his wife s right, an extensive plantation and 
many slaves on Bayou Boeuf. 

Walton had come with his load of lumber from the 
mills on Indian Creek. Ford directed us to return 
with him, saying he would follow us as soon as possible. 
Before leaving, Mistress Ford called me into the store 
room, and handed me, as it is there termed, a tin 
bucket of molasses for Harry and myself. 
~~ Eliza was still ringing her hands and deploring the 
loss of her children. Ford tried as much as possible 
to console her told her she need not work very hard ; 
that she might remain with Rose, and assist the mad 
am in the house affairs. 

Riding with Walton in the wagon, Harry and I be 
came quite well acquainted with him long before 
reaching Indian Creek. He was a " born thrall " of 
Ford s, and spoke kindly and affectionately of him, as 
a child would speak of his own father. In answer to 
his inquiries from whence I came, I told him from 
Washington. Of that city, he had heard much from 
his wife, Rose, and all the way plied me with many 
extravagant and absurd questions. 

On reaching the mills at Indian Creek, we found 
two more of Ford s slaves, Sam and Antony. >Sam, 
also, was a Washingtonian, having been brought out 



SABBATH DAYS. 97 

ni the same gang with Rose. He had worked on a 
farm near Georgetown. Antony was a blacksmith, 
from Kentucky, who had been in his present master s 
service about ten years. Sam knew Burcli, and when* 
informed that he was the trader who had sent me on 
from Washington, it was remarkable how well we 
agreed upon the subject of his superlative rascality 
He had forwarded Sam, also. 

On Ford s arrival at the mill, we were employed in 
piling lumber, and chopping logs, which occupation 
we continued during the remainder of the summer. 

O 

We usually spent our Sabbaths at the opening, on 
which days our master would gather all his slaves 
about him, and read and expound the Scriptures. 
le sought to inculcate in our minds feelings of kind 
ness towards each other, of dependence upon God 
setting forth the rewards promised unto those who 
lead an upright and prayerful life. Seated in the 
doorway of his house, surrounded by his man-ser 
vants and his maid-servants, who looked earnestly into 
the good man s face, he spoke of the loving kindness 
of the Creator, and of the life that is to come. Often 
did the voice of prayer ascend from his lips to heaven, 
the only sound that broke the solitude of the place. 
In the course of the summer Sam became deeply 
convicted, his mind dwelling intensely on the subject 
of religion. His mistress gave him a Bible, which 
iie carried with him to his work. Whatever leisure 
time was allowed him, he spent in perusing it, though 
it was only with great difficulty that he could master 



98 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

any part of it. I often read to him, a favor which he 
well repaid me ny many expressions of gratitude. 
Sam s piety was frequently observed by white men 
who came to the mill, and the remark it most gener 
ally provoked was, that a man like Ford, who allowed 
his slaves to have Bibles, was " not fit to own a nigger." 

He, however, lost nothing by his kindness. It ia 
a fact I have more than once observed, that those who 
treated their slaves most leniently, were rewarded by 
the greatest amount of labor. I know it from my 
own experience. It was a source of pleasure to sur 
prise Master Ford with a greater day s work than was 
required, while, under subsequent masters, there was 
no prompter to extra effort but the overseer s lash. 

It was the desire of Ford s approving voice that 
suggested to me an idea that resulted to his profit. 
The lumber we were manufacturing was contracted 
to be delivered at Lamourie. It had hitherto been 
transported by land, and was an important item of 
expense. Indian Creek, upon which the mills were 
situated, was a narrow but deep stream emptying into 
Bayou Bceuf. In some places it was not more than 
twelve feet wide, and much obstructed with trunks of 
trees. Bayou Boeuf was connected with Bayou Lamou 
rie. I ascertained the distance from the mills to the 
point on the latter bayou, where our lumber was to be 
delivered, was but a few miles less by land than by 
water. Provided the creek could be made navigable 
for rafts, it occurred to me that the expense of trans 
portation would be materially diminished. 



ADAM TAYDEM. 99 

Adam Taydem, a little white man, who had been a 
soldier in Florida, and had strolled into that distant 
region, was foreman and superintendent of the mills. 
He scouted the idea ; but Ford, when I laid it before 
him, received it favorably, and permitted me to try 
the experiment. 

Having removed the obstructions, I made up a nar 
row raft, consisting of twelve cribs. At this business 
I think I was quite skillful, not having forgotten my 
experience years before on the Champlain canal. I 
labored hard, being extremely anxious to succeed, 
both from a desire to please my master, and to show 
Adam Taydem that my scheme was not such a vis 
ionary one as he incessantly pronounced it. One 
hand could manage three cribs. I took charge of the 
forward three, and commenced poling down the 
creek. In due time we entered the first bayou, and 
finally reached our destination in a shorter period 
of time than I had anticipated. 

The arrival of the raft at Lamourie created a sen 
sation, while Mr. Ford loaded me with commenda 
tions. On all sides I heard Ford s Platt pronounced 
the " smartest nigger in the Pine Woods" in fact 
I was the Fulton of Indian Creek. I was not insen 
sible to the praise bestowed upon me, and enjoyed, 
especially, my triumph over Taydem, whose half- 
malicious ridicule had stung my pride. From this 
time the entire control of bringing the lumber to 
Lamourie was placed in my hands until the contract 
was fulfilled. 



100 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

Indian Creek, in its whole length, flows through a 
magnificent forest. There dwells oh its shore a tribe 
of Indians, a remnant of the Cliickasaws or Chick- 
opees, if I remember rightly. They live in simple 
huts, ten or twelve feet square, constructed of pine 
poles and covered with bark. They subsist princi 
pally on the flesh of the deer, the coon, and opos 
sum, all of which are plenty in these woods. Some 
times they exchange venison for a little corn and 
whisky with the planters on the bayous. Their 
usual dress is buckskin breeches and calico hunting 
shirts of fantastic colors, buttoned from belt to chin. 
They wear brass rings on their wrists, and in their 
ears and noses. The dress of the squaws is very 
similar. They are fond of dogs and horses owning 
many of the latter, of a small, tough breed ^and 
are skillful riders. Their bridles, girths and saddles 
were made of raw skins of animals ; their stirrups 
of a certain kind of w r ood. Mounted astride their 
ponies, men and women, I have seen them dash out 
into the woods at the utmost of their speed, following 
narrow winding paths, and dodging trees, in a man 
ner that eclipsed the most miraculous feats of civil 
ized equestrianism. Circling away in various direc 
tions, the forest echoing and re-echoing with their 
whoops, they would presently return at the same 
dashing, headlong speed with which they started. 
Their village was on Indian Creek, known as Incliar 
Castle, but their range extended to the Sabine River 
Occasionally a tribe from Texas would come over on 



CASCALLA AND HIS TEIBE. 101 

% risit, and then there was indeed a carnival in the 
< Great Pine Woods." Chief of the tribe was Gas- 
calla ; second in rank, John Baltese, his son-in-law ; 
with both of whom, as with many others of the tribe, 
I became acquainted during my frequent voyages 
down the creek with rafts. Sam and myself would 
Dften visit them when the day s task was done. They 
were obedient to the chief; the word of Cascalla 
was their law. They were a rude but harmless peo 
ple, and enjoyed their wild mode of life. They had 
little fancy for the open country, the cleared lands 
on the shores of the bayous, but preferred to hide 
themselves within the shadows of the forest. They 
worshiped the Great Spirit, loved whisky, and were 
happy. 

On one occasion I was present at a dance, when 
a roving herd from Texas had encamped in their 
village. The entire carcass of a deer was" roasting 
before a large fire, which threw its light a long dis 
tance among the trees under which they were assem 
bled. When they had formed in a ring, men and 
squaws alternately, a sort of Indian fiddle set up an 
indescribable tune. It was a continuous, melancholy 
kind of wavy sound, with the slightest possible vari 
ation. At the first note, if indeed there was more 
than one note in the whole tune, they circled around, 
trotting after each other, and giving utterance to a 
guttural, sing-song noise, equally as nondescript as the 
music of the fiddle. At the end of the third circuit, 
they would stop suddenly, whoop as if their lungs 



102 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

would crack, then break from the ring, forming in 
couples, man and squaw, each jumping backwards aa 
far as possible from the other, then forwards which 
graceful feat having been twice or thrice accomplish 
ed, they would form in a ring, arid go trotting round 
again. The best dancer appeared to be considered 
the one who could whoop the loudest, jump the far 
thest, and utter the most excruciating noise. At in 
tervals, one or more would leave the dancing circle, 
and going to the fire, cut from the roasting carcass a 
slice of venison. 

In a hole, shaped like a mortar, cut in the trunk 
of a fallen tree, the} 7 " pounded corn with a wooden 
pestle, and of the meal made cake. Alternately they 
danced and ate. Thus were the visitors from Texas 
entertained by the dusky sons and daughters of the 
Chicopees, and such is a description, as I saw it, of 
an Indian ball in the Pine Woods of Avoyelles. 

In the autumn, I left the mills, and was employed 
at the opening. One day the mistress was urging 
Ford to procure a loom, in order that Sally might 
commence weaving cloth for the winter garments of 
the slaves. He could not imagine where one was to 
be found, when I suggested that the easiest way to 
get one would be to make it, informing him at the 
same time, that I was a sort of " Jack at all trades," 
and would attempt it, with his permission. It was 
granted very readily, and I was allowed to go to a 
neighboring planter s to inspect one before commen 
cing tl* IP ler taking. At length it was finished 



JOHN M. TIBEATS. 103 

and pronounced by Sally to be perfect. She could 
easily weave her task of fourteen yards, milk the 
cows, and have leisure time besides each day. It 
worked so well, I was continued in the employment 
of making looms, which were taken down to the 
plantation on the bayou. 

At this time one John M. Tibeats a carpenter, came 
to the opening to do some work on master ; s house. 
I was directed to quit the looms and assist him. For 
two weeks I was in his company, planing and match 
ing boards for ceiling, a plastered room being a rare 
thing in the parish of Avoyelles. 

John M. Tibeats was the opposite of Ford in all 
respects. He was a small, crabbed, quick-tempered, 
spiteful man. He had no fixed residence that I ever 
heard of, but passed from one plantation to another, 
wherever he could find employment. He was with 
out standing in the community, not esteemed by 
white men, nor even respected by slaves. He was 
ignorant, withal, and of a revengeful disposition. He 
left the parish long before I did, and I know no ; 
whether he is at present alive or dead. Certain it is, 
it was a most unlucky day for me that brought us 
together. During my residence with Master Ford I 
had seen only the bright side of slavery. His was 
no heavy hand crushing us to the earth. He pointed 
upwards, and with benign and cheering words ad 
dressed us as his fellow-mortals, accountable, like 
himself, to the Mailer of us all. I think of him with 
affection, and had my family been with me, could 



104 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

have borne his gentle servitude, without murmuring 
all my days. But clouds were gathering in the hori 
zon forerunners of a pitiless storm that was soon 
to break over me. I was doomed to endure such bit 
ter trials as the pocr slave only knows, and to lead 
no more the comparatively happy life which I had 
led in the " Great Pine Woods." 



CHAPTER VIII. 



MBD 8 EMBARRASSMENTS THE SALE TO TIBEATS THE CHAITEL MORT 

GAGE MISTRESS FORD ? S PLANTATION ON BAYOU B(EUF DESCRIPTIO* 

OF THE LATTER FORD S BROTHER-IN-LAW, PETER TANNER MEETING 

WITH ELIZA SHE STILL MOURNS FOR HER CHILDREN FORD S OVER 
SEER, CHAPIN TIBEAT S ABUSE THE KEG OF NAILS THE FIRST 

FIGHT WITH TIBEATS HIS DISCOMFITURE AND CASTIGATION THE AT 
TEMPT TO HANG ME CHAPIN s INTERFERENCE AND SPEECH UNHAP 
PY REFLECTIONS ABRUPT DEPARTURE OF TIBEATS, COOK AND RAMSAY 

LAWSON AND THE BROWN MULE MESSAGE TO THE PINE WOODS. 



WILLIAM FOKD unfortunately became embarrassed 
in his pecuniary affairs. A heavy judgment was ren 
dered against him in consequence of his having be 
come security for his brother, Franklin Ford, residing 
on Red River, above Alexandria, and who had failed 
to meet his liabilities. He was also indebted to John, 
M. Tibeats to a considerable amount in consideration 
of his services in building the mills on Indian Creek. 

O 

and also a weaving-house, corn-mill and other erec 
tions on the plantation at Bayou Bceuf, not yet com 
pleted. It was therefore necessary, in order to meet 
these demands, to dispose of eighteen slaves, myself 
among the number. Seventeen of them, including 
Sam and Harry, were purchased by Peter Compton 

a planter also residing on Red River. 
E* 



106 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

I was sold to Tibeats, in consequence, undoubtedly, 
of icy slight skill as a carpenter. This was in the 
winter of 1842. The deed of myself from Freeman 
to Ford, as I ascertained from the public records in 
New-Orleans on my return, was dated June 23d, 
1841. At the time of my sale to Tibeats, the price 
agreed to be given for me being more than the debt, 
Ford took a chattel mortgage of four hundred dollars. 
I am indebted for my life, as will hereafter be seen, 
to that mortgage. 

I bade farewell to my good friends at the opening, 
and departed with my new master Tibeats. We 
went down to the plantation on Bayou Boeuf, distant 
twenty-seven miles from the Pine Woods, to complete 
the unfinished contract. Bayou Boeuf is a sluggish, 
winding stream one of those stagnant bodies of 
water common in that region, setting back from Red 
River. It stretches from a point not far from Alex 
andria, in a south-easterly direction, and following its 
tortuous course, is more than fifty miles in length. 
Large cotton and sugar plantations line each shore, 
extending back to the borders of interminable 
swamps. It is alive with aligators, rendering it un 
safe for swine, or unthinking slave children to stroll 
along its banks. Upon a bend in this bayou, a short 
distance from Cheney ville, was situated the plantation 
.)i Madam Ford her brother, Peter Tanner, a great 
landholder, living on the opposite side. 

On my arrival at Bayou B<euf, I had the pleasure 
vf meeting Eliza, whom I had not seen for several 



OVERSEER CilAPIN. 107 

months. She had not pleased Mrs. Ford, being more 
occupied in brooding over her sorrows than in attend 
ing to her business, and had, in consequence, been sent 
down to work in the field on the plantation. She had x 
grown fee Me and emaciated, and was still mourning 
for her children. She asked me if I had forgotten 
them, and a great many times inquired if I still re 
membered how handsome little Emily was how 
much Randall loved her and wondered if they were 
living still, and where the darlings could then be. 
She had sunk beneath the weight of an excessive grief. 
Her drooping form and hollow cheeks too plainly indi 
cated that she had well nigh reached the end of her 
weary road. 

Ford s overseer on this plantation, and who had the 
exclusive charge of it, was a Mr. Chapin, a kindly-dis 
posed man, and a native of Pennsylvania. In com 
mon with others, he held Tibeats in light estimation, 
which fact, in connection with the four hundred dol 
lar mortgage, was fortunate for me. 

I was now compelled to labor very hard. From 
earliest dawn until late at night, I was not allowed to] 
be a moment idle. Notwithstanding which, Tibeats 
was never satisfied. He was continually cursing and , 
complaining. He never spoke to me a kind word, 
was his faithful slave, and earned him large wag< 
every day, and yet I went to my cabin nightly, load< 
with abuse and stinging epithets. 

We had completed the corn mill, the kitchen, and 
SP forth, and were at work upon the weaving-house, 



108 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

when I was guilty of an act, in that State punishabie 
with death. It was my first fight with Tib eats. The 
weaving-house we were erecting stood in the orchard 
a few rods from the residence of Chapin, or the " great 
house," as it was called. One night, having worked 
until it was too dark to see, I was ordered by Tib eat 
to rise very early in the morning, procure a keg o 
nails from Chapin, and commence putting on tin 
clapboards. I retired to the cabin extremely tired, 
and having cooked a supper of bacon and corn cake, 
and conversed a while with Eliza, who occupied the 
same cabin, as also did Lawson and his wife Mary, 
and a slave named Bristol, laid down upon the ground 
floor, little dreaming of the sufferings that awaited me 
on the morrow. Before daylight I was on the piazza 
of the " great house," awaiting the appearance of over 
seer Chapin. To have aroused him from his slumbers 
and stated my errand, would have been an unpardon 
able boldness. At length he came out. Taking off 
my hat, T informed him Master Tib eats had directed 
me to call upon him for a keg of nails. Going into 
the stnre-room, he rolled it out, at the same time say 
ing, if Tibeats preferred a different size, he would en 
deavor to furnish them, but that I might use those 
until further directed. Then mounting his horse, 
which stood saddled and bridled at the door, he rode 
away into the field, whither the slaves had preceded 
him, while I took the keg on my shoulder, and pro 
ceeding to the weaving-house, broke in the head, and 
commerced naiJing on the clapboards. 



FIKST FIGHT WITH TIBEATS. 109 

As the day began to open, Tibeats came out of the 
house to where I was, hard at work. He seemed to 
be that morning even more morose and disagreeable 
than nsiial. He was my master, entitled by law to 
my flesh and blood, and to exercise over me such ty 
rannical control as his mean nature prompted ; bu 
there was no law that could prevent my looking upon 
him with intense contempt. I despised both his dis 
position and his intellect. I had just come round to 
the keg for a further supply of nails, as he reached 
the weaving-house. 

O 

" I thought I told you to commence putting on 
weather-boards this morning," he remarked. 

" Yes, master, and I am about it," I replied. 

" Where ? " he demanded. 

" On the other side," was my answer. 

lie walked round to the other side, examined my 
work for a while, muttering to himself in a fault-find 
ing tone. 

" Didn t I tell you last night to get a keg of nails 
of Chapin ? " he broke forth again. 

" Yes, master, and so I did ; and overseer said he 
would get another size for you, if you wanted them, 
when he came back from the iield." 

Tibeats walked to the keg, looked a moment at the 
contents, then kicked it violently. Coming towards 
me in a great passion, he exclaimed, 

" G d d n you ! I thought you knowed some 
thing." . 

I made answer : " I tried to do as you told me. 



110 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

master. I didn t mean anything wrong. Overseer 

said " But lie interrupted me with such a flood of 

curses that I was unable to finish the sentence. At 

length he ran towards the house, and going to the 

piazza, took down one of the overseer s whips. The 

whip had a short wooden stock, braided over with 

f leather, and was loaded at the butt. The lash was 

\ three feet long, or thereabouts, and made of raw-hide 

\strands. 

At first I was somewhat frightened, and my impulse 
was to run. There was no one about except Rachel, 
the cook, and Chapin s wife, and neither of them were 
to be seen. The rest were in the field. I knew he 
intended to whip me, and it was the first time any 
one had attempted it since my arrival at Avoyelles. 
I felt, moreover, that I had been faithful that I was 
/ guilty of no wrong whatever, and deserved commenda 
tion rather than punishment. My fear changed to 
I anger, and before he reached me I had made up my 
1 mind fully not to be whipped, let the result be life or 
\ death. 

Winding the lash around his hand, and taking hold 
of the small end of the stock, he walked up to me, 
and with a malignant look, ordered me to strip. 

" Master Tibeats, said I, looking him boldly in the 
face, " I will not" I was about to say something 
further in justification, but with concentrated ven 
geance, lie sprang upon me, seizing me by the throat 
with one hand, raising the whip with the other, in the 
act of striking. Before the blow descended, however, 



Ill 

I bad caught him by the collar of the coat, and drawn 
him closely to me. Reaching down, I seized him by 
the ankle, and pushing him back with the other hand, 
he fell over on the ground. Putting one arm around 
his leg, and holding it to my breast, so that his head 
and shoulders only touched the ground, I placed my 
foot upon his neck. He was completely in my power. 
My blood was up. It seemed to course through my 
veins like fire. In the frenzy of my madness I snatched 
the whip from his hand. He struggled with all his 
power; swore that I should not live to see another 
day , and that he would tear out my heart. But his 
struggles and his threats were alike in vain. I cannot 

CO 

tell how many times I struck him. Blow after blow 
fell fast and heavy upon his wriggling form. At 
length he screamed cried murder and at last the 
blasphemous tyrant called on God for mercy. But 
he who had never shown mercy did not receive it. 
The stiff stock of the whip warped round his cringing 
body until my right arm ached. 

Until this time I had been too busy to look about 
me. Desisting for a moment, I saw Mrs. Chapin 
looking from the window, and Rachel standing in the 
kitchen door. Their attitudes expressed the utmost 
excitement and alarm. His screams had been heard 
in the field. Chapin was coming as fast as he could 
ride. I struck him a blow or two more, then pushed 
him from me with such a well-directed kick that he 
went rolling over on the ground. 

Rising to his feet, and brushing the dirt from bis 



(.12 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

hair, he stood looking at me, pale with rage. vVo 
gazed at each other in silence. Not a word was ut 
tered until Chapin galloped up to us. 

"What is the matter?" he cried out. 

" Master Tibeats wants to whip me for using the 
nails you gave me," I replied. 

" What is the matter with the nails ?" he inquired, 
turning to Tibeats. 

Tibeats answered to the effect that they were too 
large, paying little heed, however, to Chapin s ques 
tion, but still keeping his snakish eyes fastened mali 
ciously on me. 

"I am overseer here," Chapin began. "I told 
Platt to take them and use them, and if they w r ere not 
of the proper size I would get others on returning from 
the field. It is not his fault. Besides, I shall furnish 
such nails as I please. I hope you will understand 
that, Mr. Tibeats." 

Tibeats made no reply, but, grinding his teeth and 
shaking his fist, swore he would have satisfaction, 
and that it was not half over yet. Thereupon he walk 
ed away, followed by the overseer, and entered the 
house, the latter talking to him all the while in a sup 
pressed tone, and with earnest gestures. 

I remained where I was, doubting whether it was 
better to fly or abide the result, whatever it might 
be. Presently Tibeats came out of the house, and, 
saddling his horse, the only property he possessed be 
sides myself, departed on the road to Chenyville. 

When he was ""one, Chapin came out, visibly exci 



UNHAPPY REFLECTIONS. 113 

ted, telling me not to stir, not to attempt to leave the 
plantation on any account whatever, lie then went 
to the kitchen, and calling Rachel out, conversed with 
her some time. Coming back, he again charged me 
with great earnestness not to run, saying my master 
was a rascal ; that he had left on no good errano * * 
that there might be trouble before night. Btu at an 
events, he insisted upon it, I must not stir. 

As I stood there, feelings of unutterable agony 
overwhelmed me. I was conscious that I had sub 
jected myself to unimaginable punishment. The re 
action that followed my extreme ebullition of anger 
produced the most painful sensations of regret. 
unfriended, helpless slave what could I do, what\ 
could I say, to justify, in the remotest manner, the 
heinous act I had committed, of resenting a white 
man s contumely and abuse. I tried to pray I tried ./ 
to beseech my Heavenly Father to sustain me in m^/ 
sore extremity, but emotion choked my utterance, and 
I could only bow my head upon my hands and weep. 
For at least an hour I remained in this situation, find 
ing relief only in tears, when, looking up, I beheld 
Tibeats, accompanied by two horsemen, coming down 
the bayou. They rode into the yard, jumped from 
their horses, and approached me with large whips, 
one of them also carrying a coil of rope. 

" Cross your hands," commanded Tibeats, with the 
addition of such a shuddering expression of blasphe 
my as is not decorous to repeat. 

8 



114 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

" You need not bind me, Master Tibeats, I arc 
r jady to go with you anywhere," said I. 

One of his companions then stepped forward, swear- 
tag: if I made the least resistance he would break my 
lead he would tear me limb from limb he would 
i my black throat and giving wide scope to other 
similar expressions. Perceiving any importunity al 
together vain, I crossed my hands, submitting hum 
bly to whatever disposition they might please to make 
of me. Thereupon Tibeats tied my wrists, drawing 
the rope around them with his utmost strength. Then 
he bound my ankles in the same manner. In the 
meantime the other two had slipped a cord within my 
elbows, running it across my back, and tying it firm 
ly. It was utterly impossible to move hand or foot 
With a remaining piece of rope Tibeats made an awk 
ward noose, and placed it about my neck. 

" Now, then," inquired one of Tibeats companions, 
" where shall we hang the nigger ?" 

One proposed such a limb, extending from the body 
of a peach tree, near the spot where we were stand 
ing. His comrade objected to it, alleging it would 
break, and proposed another. Finally they fixed up 
on the latter. 

During this conversation, and all the time they 
were binding me, I uttered not a word. Overseer 
Chapin, during the progress of the scene, was walk 
ing hastily back and forth on the piazza. Rachel was 
crying by the kitchen door, and Mrs. Chapin was still 



ATTEMPT TO HANG ME. 115 

looking from the window. Hope died within my \ 
heart. Surely my time had come. I should never 
behold the light of another day never behold the 
faces of my children the sweet anticipation I had / 
cherished with such fondness. I should that hour 
struggle through the fearful agonies of death ! None 
would mourn for me none revenge me. Soon my 
form would be mouldering in that distant soil, or, per 
haps, be cast to the slimy reptiles that filled the stag 
nant waters of the bayou ! Tears flowed down my 
cheeks, but they only afforded a subject of insulting 
comment for my executioners. 

At length, as they were dragging me towards the 
tree, Chapin, who had momentarily disappeared from 
the piazza, came out of the house and walked towards 
us. He had a pistol in each hand, and as near as I 
can now recall to mind, spoke in a firm, determined 
manner, as follows : 

" Gentlemen, I have a few words to say. You had 
better listen to them. Whoever moves that slave an 
other foot from where he stands is a dead man. In 
the first place, he does not deserve this treatment. It 
is a shame to murder him in this manner. I never 
knew a more faithful boy than Platt. You, Tibeats, 
are in the fault yourself. You are pretty much of a 
scoundrel, and I know it, and you richly deserve th 
flogging you have received. In the next place, I hav 
been overseer on this plantation seven years, and, in 
the absence of William Ford, am master here. My 
duty is to protect his interests, and that duty I shaU 



116 TWELVE YEAES A SLAVE. 

perform. You are not responsible you are a worth 
less fellow. Ford holds a mortgage on Platt of four 
hundred dollars. If you hang him he loses his debt. 
Until that is canceled you have no right to take his 
life. You have no right to take it any way. There 
is a law for the slave as well as for the white man. 
You are no better than a murderer. 

" As for you," addressing Cook and Ramsay, a 
couple of overseers from neighboring plantations, " ae 
for you begone ! If you have any regard for your 
own safety, I say, begone." 

Cook and Ramsay, without a further word, mount 
ed their horses and rode away. Tibeats, in a few 
minutes, evidently in fear, and overawed by the deci 
ded tone of Chapin, sneaked off like a coward, as he 
was, and mounting his horse, followed his companions. 

I remained standing where I was, still bound, with 
the rope around my neck. As soon as they were 
gone, Chapin called Rachel, ordering her to run to 
the field, and tell Lawson to hurry to the house with 
out delay, and bring the brown mule with him, an 
animal much prized for its unusual fleetness. Pres 
ently the boy appeared. 

" Lawson," said Chapin, " you must go to the Pine 

VV oods. Tell your master Ford to come here at once 

$Ux,t he must not delay a single moment. Tell him 

cu-oj are trying to murder Platt. Now hurry, boy. 

Be at the Pine Woods by noon if you kill the mule." 

Chapin stepped into the house and wrote a pass. 
When he returned, Lawson was at the door, mounted 



LAW80N AND THE MULE. 117 

on his mule. Receiving the pass, he plied the whip 
right smartly to the beast, dashed out of the yard, and 
turning up the bayou on a hard gallop, in less time 
than it has taken Hie to describe the scene, was out 
of sight. 



CHAPTER IX, 

HIE HOT SUN YET BOUND THE CORDS SINK INTO MT FLESH CHA- 

PIN S UNEASINESS SPECULATION RACHEL, AND HER CUP OF WATER 

SUFFERING INCREASES THE HAPPINESS OF SLAVERY ARRIVAL Ol 

FORD HE CUTS THE CORDS WHICH BIND ME, AND TAKES THE ROPE FROM 

MY NECK MISERY THE GATHERING OF THE SLAVES IN ELIZA* S CABIN 

THEIR KINDNESS RACHEL REPEATS THE OCCURRENCES OF THE DAY 

LAWSON ENTERTAINS HIS COMPANIONS WITH AN ACCOUNT OF HIS RIDE 

CHAPIN S APPREHENSIONS OF TIBEATS HIRED TO PETER TANNER PETKB 
EXPOUNDS THE SCRIPTURES DESCRIPTION OF THE STOCKS. 

As the sun approached the meridian that day it be 
came insufferably warm. Its hot rays scorched the 
ground. The earth almost blistered the foot that stood 
upon it. I was without coat or hat, standing bare 
headed, exposed to its burning blaze. Great drops 
of perspiration rolled down my face, drenching the 
scanty apparel wherewith I was clothed. Over the 
fence, a very little way off, the peach trees cast their 
cool, delicious shadows on the grass. I would -gladly 
have given a long year of service to have been ena 
bled to exchange the heated oven, as it were, where 
in I stood, for a seat beneath their branches. But I 
was yet bound, the rope still dangling from my neck, 
and standing in the same tracks where Tibeats and 
his comrades left me. I could not move an inch, so 
firmly had I been bound. To have been enabled to 



CHAriN 7 8 UNEASINESS. 110 

lean against the weaving house would have been a 
luxury indeed.- But it was far beyond my reach, 
though distant less than twenty feet. I wanted to lie 
down, but knew I could not rise again. The ground 
was so parched and boiling hot I was aware it would 
but add to the discomfort of my situation. If I coui J 
have only moved my position, however slightly, it 
would have been relief unspeakable. But the hot 
rays of a southern sun, beating all the long summer 
day on my bare head, produced not* half the suffer 
ing I experienced from my aching limbs. My wrists 
and ankles, and the cords of my legs and arms began 
to swell, burying the rope that bound them into the 
swollen flesh. 

All day Chapm walked back and forth upon the 
stoop, but not once approached me. lie appeared to 
be in a state of great uneasiness, looking first 
towards me, and then up the road, as if expecting 
some arrival every moment. He did not go to the 
field, as was his custom. It was evident from his man 
ner that he supposed Tibeats would return with more 
and better armed assistance, perhaps, to renew the 
quarrel, and it was equally evident he had prepared 
his mind to defend my life at whatever hazard 
Why he did not relieve me why he suffered me to 
remain in agony the whole weary day, I never knew 
It was not for want* of sympathy, I am certain. Per x 
haps he wished Ford to see the rope about my neeky, 
and the brutal manner in which I had been bou id ;j 
perhaps his interference with another s property itf 



120 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE 

which he had no legal interest might have been a 
trespass, which would have subjected him to the pen 
alty of the law. Why Tibeats was all day absent was 
another mystery I never could divine. He knew well 
enough that Chapin would not harm him unless he 
persisted in his design against me. Lawson told n. e 
afterwards, that, as he passed the plantation of Johi. 
David Cheney, he saw the three, and that they turned 
and looked after him as he flew by. I think his sup 
position was, that Lawson had been sent out by Over 
seer Chapin to arouse the neighboring planters, and 
to call on them to come to his assistance. He, there 
fore, undoubtedly, acted on the principle, that " dis 
cretion is the better part of valor," and kept away. 
, But whatever motive may have governed the cow 
ardly and malignant tyrant, it is of no importance. 
There I still stood in the noon-tide sun, groaning with 
pain. From long before daylight I had not eaten a 
morsel. I was growing faint from pain, and thirst, 
hunger. Once only, in the very hottest portion 
of the day, Rachel, half fearful she was acting con- 
t rary to the overseer s wishes, ventured to me, and 
held a cup of water to my lips. The humble crea 
ture never knew, nor could she comprehend if she 
had Leard them, the blessings I invoked upon her, 
for that balmy draught. She could only say, " Oh, 
Platt, how I do pity you," and then hastened back to 
her labors in the kitchen. 

^N"ever did the sun move so slowly through the 
heavens never did it shower down such fervent and 



ARRIVAJL OF FORD. 121 

fiery rays, as it did that day. At least, so it appear 
ed to me. What my meditations were the innume 
rable thoughts that thronged through my distracted 
brain I will not attempt to give expression to. 
Suffice it to say, during the whole long day I came 
not to the conclusion, even once, that the southern 
slave, fed, clothed, whipped and protected by his 
master, is happier than the free colored citizen of the 
North. To that conclusion I have never since arri 
ved. There are many, however, even in the Northern 
States, benevolent and well-disposed men, who will 
pronounce my opinion erroneous, and gravely proceed 
to substantiate the assertion with an argument. Alas ! 
they have never drunk, as I have, from the bitter cup 
of slavery. Just at sunset my heart leaped with un 
bounded joy, as Ford came riding into the yard, his 
horse covered with foam. Chapin met him at the 
door, and after conversing a short time, he walked 
directly to me. 

" Poor Platt, you are in a bad state," was the only 
expression that escaped his lips. 

" Thank God !" said I, " thank God, Master Ford, 
that you have come at last." 

Drawing a knife from his pocket, he indignantly 
cut the cord from my wrists, arms, and ankles, and 
slipped the noose from my neck. I attempted to 
walk, but staggered like a drunken man, and fell par 
tially to the ground. 

Ford returned immediately to the house, leaving 
me alone again. As he reached the piazza, Tibeats 



122 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

and his two friends rode up. A long dialogue fol 
lowed. I could hear the sound of their voices, the 
mild tones of Ford mingling with the angry accents 
of Tib eats, but was unable to distinguish what was 
said. Finally the three departed again, apparently 
not well pleased. 

I endeavored to raise the hammer, thinking to show 
Ford how willing I was to work, by proceeding with 
my labors on the weaving house, but it fell from my 
nerveless hand. At dark I crawled into the cabin, 
and laid down. I was in great misery all sore and 
swollen the slightest movement producing excruci 
ating suffering. Soon the hands came in from the 
field. Rachel, when she went after Lawson, had told 
them what had happened. Eliza and Mary broiled 
me a piece of bacon, but my appetite was gone. 
Then they scorched some corn meal and made coifee. 
It was all that 1 could take. Eliza consoled me and 
was very kind. It was not long before the cabin was 
full of siaves. They gathered round me, asking many 
questions about the difficulty with Tibeats in the 
morning and the particulars of all the occurrences 
of the day. Then Rachel came in, and in her simple 
language, repeated it over again dwelling emphat 
ically on the kick that sent Tibeats rolling over on 
the ground w r hereupon there was a general titter 
throughout the crowd. Then she described how Cha- 
pin walked out with his pistols and rescued me, 
and how Master Ford cut the ropes with his knife, 
just as if he w r as mfe I 



LAWSON S RIDE. 12 J 

By this time Lawson had returned. lie had to 
regale them with an account of his trip to the Pine 
Woods how the brown mule bore him faster than 
a " streak o lightnin" how he astonished everybody 
as he flew along how Master Ford started right 
away how he said Platt was a good nigger, and 
they shouldn t kill him, concluding with pretty strong 
intimations that there was not another human being 
in the "wide world, who could have created such a 
universal sensation on the road, or performed such a 
marvelous John Gilpin feat, as he had done that day 
on the brown mule. 

The kind creatures loaded me with the expression 
of their sympathy saying, Tibeatswas a hard, cruel 
man, and hoping " Massa Ford" would get me back 
again. In this manner they passed the time, discus 
sing, chatting, talking over and over again the exci 
ting affair, until suddenly Chapin presented himself 
at the cabin door and called me. 

" Platt," said he, " you will sleep on the floor in the 
great house to-night ; bring your blanket with 

I arose as quickly as I was able, took my blanket 
in my hand, and followed him. On the way he in 
formed me that he should not wonder if Tibeats wsu 
back again before morning that he intended to kill 
me and that he did not mean he should do it With 
out witnesses. Had he stabbed me to the he? t in 
the presence of a hundred slaves, not one of tlu n, by 
the laws of Louisiana, could have given ev dence 
against him. I laid down on the floor in the great 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

house" the first and the last time such a sumptu 
ous resting place was granted me during my twelve 
years of bondage and tried to sleep. Near midnight 
the dog began to bark. Chapin arose, looked from 
the window, but could discover nothing. At length 
the dog was quiet. As he returned to his room, he said, 

" I believe, Platt, that scoundrel is skulking about 
the premises somewhere. If the dog barks again, and 
I am sleeping, wake me." 

I promised to do so. After the lapse of an hour or 
more, the dog re-commenced his clamor, running 
towards the gate, then back again, all the while bark 
ing furiously. 

Chapin was out of bed without waiting to be called. 
On this occasion, he stepped forth upon the piazza, 
and remained standing there a considerable length of 
time. Nothing, however, was to be seen, and the 
dog returned to his kennel. We were not disturbed 
again during the night. The excessive pain that I 
suffered, and the dread of some impending danger, 
prevented any rest whatever. Whether or not Tibe- 
ats did actually return to the plantation that night, 
seeking an opportunity to wreak his vengeance upon 
me, is a secret known only to himself, perhaps. 1 
thought then, however, and have the strong impres 
sion still, that he was there. At all events, he had 
the disposition of an assassin cowering before a 
brave man s words, but ready to strike his helpless 01 
unsuspecting victim in the ,*ick, as I had reason af 
terwards to know. 



CI1APIN 8 APPEAEANOB. 




At daylight in the morning, I arose, sore and wea 
ry, having rested little. Nevertheless, after partaking 
breakfast, which Mary and Eliza had prepared for me 
in the cabin, I proceeded to the weaving-house and 
commenced the labors of another day. It was Cha 
pin s practice, as it is the practice of overseers gen 
erally, immediately on arising, to bestride his horse 
always saddled and bridled and ready for him 
the particular business of some slave and ride intc 
the field. This morning, on the contrary, he came tc 
the weaving -house, asking if I had seen anything of 
Tibeats yet. Keplying in the negative, he remarked 
there was something not right about the fellow 
there was bad blood in him that I must keep a 
sharp watch of him, or he would do me wrong some 
day when I least expected it. 

While he was yet speaking, Tibeats rode in, hitched 
his horse, and entered the house. I had little fear of 
him while Ford and Chapin were at hand, but they 
could not be near me always. 

Oh ! how heavily the weight of slavery pressed 
upon me then. I must toil day after day, endure 
abuse and taunts and scoffs, sleep on the hard ground, 
live on the coarsest fare, and not only this, but live 
the slave of a blood-seeking wretch, of whom I mijs^ 
stand henceforth in continued fear and dreadfjjWhy \ I/ 
had I not died in my young years before God had 
given me children to love and live for ? What un- 
happiness and suffering and sorrow it would have 
prevented. I sighed for liberty ; but the bondman s 



126 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

chain was round me, and could not be shaken oft. 1 
could only gaze wistfully towards the North, and 
think of the thousands of miles that stretched between 
me and the soil of freedom, over which a Hack free 
man may not pass. 

Tibeats, in the course of half an hour, walked over 
to the weaving-house, looked at me sharply, then re 
turned without saying anything. Most of the fore 
noon he sat on the piazza, reading a newspaper and 
conversing with Ford. After dinner, the latter left 
for the Pine Woods, and it was indeed with regret 
that I beheld him depart from the plantation. 

Once more during the day Tibeats came to me, 
gave me some order, and returned. 

During the week the weaving-house was completed 
Tibeats in the meantime making no allusion what 
ever to the difficulty when I was informed he had 
hired me to Peter Tanner, to work under another car 
penter by the name of Myers. This announcement 
was received with gratification, as any place was de 
sirable that would relieve me of his hateful presence. 

Peter Tanner, as the reader has already been in 
formed, lived on the opposite shore, and was the broth 
er of Mistress Ford. He is one of the most extensive 
planters on Bayou Boeuf, and owns a large number 
of slaves. 

Over I went to Tanner s, joyfully enough. He had 
heard of my late difficulties in fact, I ascertained 
the flogging of Tibeats was soon blazoned far and wide. 
This aiftur, together with my rafting experiment, hao 



PETER EXPOUNDS THE SCKIPTUKE. 121 

tendered me somewhat notorious. More than once P 
heard it said that Platt Ford, now Platt Tibeats a 
slave s name changes with his change of master was> 
" a devil of a nigger." But I was destined to make a 
still further noise, as will presently be seen, through 
out the little world of Bayou Boeuf. 

Peter Tanner endeavored to impress upon- me the 
idea that he was quite severe, though I could per 
ceive there was a vein of good humor in the old fel 
low, after all. 

" You re the nigger," he said to me on my arrival 
^"" You re tho nigger that flogged your master, eh ? 
You re the nigger that kicks, and holds carpenter 
Tibeats by the leg, and wallops him, are ye ? Pd like 
to see you hold me by the leg I should. You re a 
portant character you re a great nigger very re 
markable nigger, ain t ye ? Pd lash you Pd take 
the tantrums out of ye. Jest take hold of my leg, if 
you please. None of your pranks here, my boy, re 
member that. Now go to work, you Icicki/itf rascal," 
concluded Peter Tanner, unable to suppress a half- 
comical grin at his own wit and sarcasm. 

After listening to this salutation, I was taken charge 
of by Myers, and labored under his direction for a 
month, to his and my own satisfaction. 

Like William Ford, his brother-in-law, Tanner was 
in the habit of reading the Bible to his slaves on the 
Sabbath, but in a somewhat different spirit. lie was 
an impressive commentator on the New-Testament, 
The first Sunday after my coming to the plantation, 



128 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

he called them together, and .began_to reacHlie twelfth 
cliaj)ter_of Luke. When he came to the 47th verse, 
he looked deliberately around him, and continued 
" And that servant which knew his lord s will" -here 
he paused, looking around more deliberately than be 
fore, and again proceeded " which knew his lord s 
willy and prepared not himself"- here was another 
pause "prepared not himself, neither did according 
tojiis will, shall be beaten with many stripes." 

" D ye hear that ? " demanded Peter, emphatically. 
" Stripes" he repeated, slowly and distinctly, taking 
off his spectacles, preparatory to making a few re 
marks. 

-- 

" That nigger that don t take care that don t obey 
his lord that s his master d ye see ? that ^ert 
nigger shall be beaten with many stripes. Now, 
< many signifies a great many forty, a hundred, 
a hundred and fifty lashes. That s Scripter ! " and so 

eter continued to elucidate the subject for a great 
length of time, much to the edification of his sable 
audience. 

At the conclusion of the exercises, calling up three 
of his slaves, Warner, Will and Major, he cried out 
to me 

" Here, Platt, you held Tibeats by the legs ; now I ll 
see if you can hold these rascals in the same way, till 
I get back from meetinV 

Thereupon he ordered them to the stocks a com 
mon thing on plantations in the Red River country. 
The stocks are formed of two planks, the lower one 



DESCRIPTION OF THE STOCKS. 129 

made fast at the ends to two sliort posts, driven firmly 
into the ground. At regular distances half circles 
are cut in the upper edge. The other plank is fas- 
^ened to one of the posts "by a hinge, so that it can l>e 
opened or shut down, in the same manner as the blade 
of a pocket-knife is shut or opened. In the lower edge 
of the upper plank corresponding half circles are also 
cat. so that wrien they close, a row of holes is formed 
large enough to admit a negro s leg above the ankle, 
but not large enough to enable him to draw out his 
foot. The other end of the upper plank, opposite the 
hinge, is fastened to its post by lock and key. The 
slave is made to sit upon the ground, when the upper 
most plank is elevated, his legs, just above the ank^s, 
placed hi the sub-half circles, and shutting it down 
again, and locking it, he is held secure and fast. Verj 
often the ne^k instead of the ankle is enclosed. Ii 
this manner they are held during the operation <>t 
whipping. 

Warner, "Will jvnd Major, according to Tanner s ae 
count of them, we-re melon-stealing, Sabbath-break 
ing niggers, and nov approving of such wickedness, lie 
felt it his duty to pui them in the stocks. Handing 
me the key, himself, Myers, Mistress Tanner and the 
children entered the carnage and drove away to 
church at Cheney ville. Wlien they were gone, the 
boys begged me to let them out. I felt sorry to see 
them sitting on the hot ground, and remembered my 
own sufferings in the sun. Upon their promise to re 
turn to the stocks at any moment they were required 
F* 



130 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

to do so, I consented to release them. Grateful for 
the lenity shown them, and in order in some meas 
ure to repay it, they could do no less, of course, 
than pilot me, to the melon-patch. Shortly before 
Tanner s return, they were in the stocks again. 
Finally he drove up, and looking at the boys, said, with 
a chuckle, 

" Aha ! ye havn t been strolling about much to-day, 
any way. Pll teach you what s what. I HI tire ye 
of eating water-melons on the Lord s day, ye Sabbath- 
^breaking niggers." 

Peter Tanner prided himself upon his strict religious 
observances : he was a deacon in the church. 

But I have now reached a point in the progress of 
my narrative, when it becomes necessary to turn away 
from these light descriptions, to the more grave and 
weighty matter of the second battle with Master Tib- 
eats, and the flight through the great Pacoudrie 
Swamp. 



CHAPTER X. 



TIBEATS - IMPOSSIBILITY OF PLEASING HIM - HE ATTACKS /il 
WITH A HATCHET - THE STRUGGLE OVER THE BROAD AXE - THETEMINA- 
TION TO MURDER HIM - ESCAPE ACROSS THE PLANTATION - OBSERVA 
TIONS FROM THE FENCE - TIBEATS APPROACHES, FOLLOWED BY THE HOUNie 
THEY TAKE MY TRACK - THEIR LOUD YELLS - THEY ALMOST OVERTAKK 
ME - I REACH THE WATER - THE HOUNDS CONFUSED - MOCCASIN SNAKKS 
ALLIGATORS - NIGHT IN THE "GREAT PACOUDRIE SWAMP" - THESOUNM 
OK LIFE - NORTH-WEST COURSE - EMERGE INTO THE PINE WOODS - TluC 
SLAVE AND HIS YOUNG MASTER - ARRIVAL AT FORD S - FOOD AND REf.f. 

AT the end of a month, my services being no V>/* 
ger required at Tanner s I was sent over the fc/.ycu 
again to my master, whom I found engaged in Viiild- 
ing the cotton press. This was situated at some dis 
tance from the great house, in a rather retired place. 
I commenced working once more in company with 
Tibeats, being entirely alone with him most part of 
the time. I remembered the words f Chapiu, his 
precautions, his advice to beware, leaf, in some unsus 
pecting moment he might injure ir.e They were al 
ways in my mind, so that I lived in a most uneasy 
state of apprehension and fear. One eye was on my^ 
work, the other on my master. J determined to give \ 
him no cause of offence, to wo A still more diligently, ^ 



132 TWELVE YEABS A SLAVE. 

if possible, than I had done, ro Dear whatever abuse 
he might heap upon me, save bodily injury, humbly 
and patiently, hoping thereby to soften in some de 
gree his manner towards me, until the blessed time 
might come when I should be delivered from 1m 
clutches. 

The third morning after my return, Cliapin loft the 
plantation for Cheneyville, to be absent until night. 
Tibeats, on that morning, was attacked with one of 
those periodical fits of spleen and ill-humor to which 
he was frequently subject, rendering him still more 
disagreeable and venomous than usual. 

It was about nine o clock in the forenoon, when 1 
was busily employed with the jack-plane on one of the 
sweeps. Tibeats was standing by the work-bench, 
fitting a handle into the chisel, with which he had 
been engaged previously in cutting the thread of the 
screw. 

" You are not planing that down enough," said he. 

" It is just even with the line," I replied. 

" You re a d d liar," he exclaimed passionately. 

" Oh, well, master," I said, mildly, " I will plane it 
down more if you say so," at the same time proceed 
ing to do as I supposed he desired. Before one sha 
ring had been removed, however, he cried out, say- 
<g I had now planed it too deep it was too small 
I had spoiled the sweep entirely. Then followed 
mrses and imprecations. I had endeavored to do ex 
actly as he directed, but nothing would satisfy the un 
reasonable man. In silence and in dread I stood by the 



TIBEATS ATTACKS ME. 133 

sweep, holding the jack-plane in my hand, not know 
ing what to do, and not daring to he idle. His anger 
grew more and more violent, until, finally, with an 
oath, such a hitter, frightful oath as only Tiheats could 
utter, he seized a hatchet from the work-bench and 
darted towards me, swearing he would cut my head 
open. 

It was a moment of life or death. The sharp, bright 
blade of the hatchet glittered in the sun. In another 
instant it would be buried in my brain, and yet in 
that instant so quick will a man s thoughts come to 
him in such a fearful strait I reasoned with my 
self. If I stood still, my doom was certain ; if I fled, 
ten chances to one the hatchet, flying from his hand 
with a too-deadly and unerring aim, would strike me 
in the back. There was but one course to take. 
Springing towards him with all my power, and meet 
ing him full half-way, before he could bring down the 
blow, with one hand I caught his uplifted arm, with 
the other seized him by the throat. We stood look 
ing each other in the eyes. In his I could see mur 
der. I felt as if I had a serpent by the neck, watch 
ing the slightest relaxation of my gripe, to coil itself 
round my body, crushing and stinging it to death. I 
thought to scream aloud, trusting that some ear might 
catch the sound but Chapin was away ; the hands 
were in the field ; there \vas no living soul in sight 
or hearing. 

The good genius, which thus far through life has ~^\ 
saved me from the hands of violence, at that moment I 



134 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

suggested a lucky thought. With a vigorous and 
sudden kick, that brought him on one knee, with a 
groan, I released my hold upon his throat, snatched 
the hatchet, and cast it beyond reach. 

Frantic with rage, maddened beyond control, he 
seized a white oak stick, five feet long, perhaps, and 
as large in circumference as his hand could grasp, 
which was lying on the ground. Again he rushed 
towards me, and again I met him, seized him about 
the waist, and being the stronger of the two, bore 
him to the earth. While in that position I obtained 
possession of the stick, and rising, cast it from me, 
also. 

He likewise arose and ran for the broad-axe, on the 
work-bench. Fortunately, there was a heavy plank 
lying upon its broad blade, in such a manner that he 
could not extricate it, before I had sprung upon his 
back. Pressing him down closely and heavily on the 
plank, so that the axe was held more firmly to its 
place, I endeavored, but in vain, to break his grasp 
upon the handle. In that position we remained some 
minutes. 

i There have been hours in my unhappy life, many 
of them, when the contemplation of death as the end 
of earthly sorrow of the grave as a resting place 
for the tired and worn out body has been pleasant 
to dwell upon. ^But such contemplations vanish in the 
hour of peril. /No man, in his full strength, can 
stand undismayed, in the presence of the " king of 
terrors." Life is dear to every living thing; the 



TEMPTATION TO MURDEK TIBEATS. 135 

worm that crawls~-u-poa-:khe ground will struggle for 
it. At that moment it was dear to nie 7 enslaved and 
treated asjjwas. 

Not able to unloose his hand, once more I seized 
him by the throat, and this time, with a vice-like 
gripe that soon relaxed his hold. He became pliant 
and unstrung. His face, that had been white with 
passion, was now black from suffocation. Those small 
serpent eyes that spat such venom, were now full of 
horror two great white orbs starting from their 
sockets ! 

There was " a lurking devil" in my heart that 
prompted me to kill the human blood-hound on the 
spot -to retain the gripe on his accursed throat till 
the breath of life was gone ! I dared not murder 
him, and I dared not let him live. If I killed him,"" 
my life must pay the forfeit if he lived, my life 
only would satisfy his vengeance. A voice within 
whispered me to fly. To be a wanderer among the 
swamps, a fugitive and a vagabond on the face of 
the earth, was preferable to the life that I was lead 
ing. 

My resolution was soon formed, and swinging hiir 
from the work-bench to the ground, I leaped a fence 
near by, and hurried across the plantation, passing 
the slaves at work in the cotton field. At the end of 
a quarter of a mile I reached the wood-pasture, and 
it was a short time indeed that I had been running 
it. Climbing on to a high fence, I could see the 
cotton press, the great house, and the space between. 



136 TWELVE YEAUS A SLAVE. 

It was a conspicuous position, from whence the *7hoie 
plantation was in view. I saw Tibeats cross the field 
towards the house, and enter it then he came out x 
carrying his saddle, and presently mounted his horse 
and galloped away. 

I was desolate, but thankful. Thankful that my 
life was spared, desolate and discouraged with the 
prospect before me. What would become of me ? 
"Who would befriend me ? Whither should I fly f ( 
Oh, God ! Thou who gavest me life, and implanted 
in my bosom the love of life who filled it with 
emotions such as other men, thy creatures, have, do 
not forsake me. Have pity 011 the poor slave let 
me not perish. If thou dost not protect me, I am 
lost lost! Such supplications, silently and unut 
tered, ascended from my inmost heart to Heaven 
But there was no answering voice no sweet, low 
tone, coming down from on high, whispering to my 
soul, " It is I, be not afraid." I was the forsaken of 
God, it sqemed the despised and hated of men ! 

In about three-fourths of an hour several of the 
slaves shouted and made signs for me to run. Pres 
ently, looking up the bayou, I saw Tibeats and two 
others on horse-back, coming at a fast gait, followed 
by a troop of dogs. There were as many as eight or 
ten. Distant as I was, I knew them. They belonged 
on the adjoining plantation. The dogs used on Bayou 
Boeuf for hunting slaves are a kind of blood-hound, 
but a far more savage breed than is found in the 
Northern States. They will attack a negro, at their 



PURSUED BY HODKDS. 137 

/master s bidding, and cling to him as the common 
( bull-dog will cling to a four footed animal. Fre- 
\ quently their loud bay is heard in the swamps, and 
\ then there is speculation as to what point the runaway 
will be overhauled the same as a New-York hunter 
Btops to listen to the hounds coursing along the hill 
sides, and suggests to his companion that the fox will 
be taken at such a place. I never knew a slave es^\ 
caping with his life from Bayou Boeuf. One reason/ 
is, they are not allowed to learn the art of swimming J 
and are incapable of crossing the most inconsiderable 
stream. In their night they can go in no direction 
but a little way without coming to a bayou, when the 
inevitable alternative is presented, of being drowned 
or overtaken by the dogs. In youth I had practised 
in the clear streams that flow through my native dis 
trict, until I had become an expert swimmer, and felt \ 
at home in the watery element. 

I stood upon the fence until the dogs had reaclfecTx 
the cotton press. In an instant more, their long, sav 
age yells announced they were on my track. Leap 
ing down from my position, I ran towards the swamp. 
Fear gave me strength, and I exerted it to the utmost 
Every few moments I could hear the yelpings of the 
dogs. They were gaining upon me. Every howl 
was nearer and nearer. Each moment I expected 
they would spring upon my back expected to fee] 
their long teeth sinking into my flesh. There were 
so many of them, I knew they would tear me to pie 
ces, that they would worry me, at once, to death. J 



138 TWELVE YEAK8 A SLAVE. 

gasped for breath gasped forth a half-uttered, cho 
king prayer to the Almighty to save me to give me 
strength to reach some wide, deep bayou where I 
could throw them off the track, or sink into its wa 
ters. Presently I reached a thick palmetto bottom. 
As I fled through them they made a loud rustling 
ooise, not loud enough, however, to drown the voices 
f the dogs. 

Continuing my course due south, as nearly as I can 
judge, I came at length to water just over shoe. 
The hounds at that moment could not have been five 
ruds behind me. I could hear them crashing and 
plunging through the palmettoes, their loud, eager 
yells making the whole swamp clamorous with the 
sound. Hope revived a little as I reached the water. 
If it were only deeper, they might loose the scent, and 
thus disconcerted, afford me the opportunity of eva 
ding them. Luckily, it grew deeper the farther I 
proceeded now over my ankles now half-way to 
my knees now sinking a moment to my waist, and 
then emerging presently into more shallow places. 
The dogs had not gained upon me since I struck the 
water. Evidently they were confused. Now their 
savage intonations grew more and more distant, as 
suring me that I was leaving them. Finally I stop 
ped to listen, but the long howl came booming on the 
air hyjain, telling me I was ~\ot yet safe. From bog to 7 
bog, where I had stepped, they c^ld L _slilLJxejep_u]3on_ 
the track, though impeded by the water. At length, 
to my great joy, I came to a wide bayou, and plung- 



I flEACH THE WATER. 139 

mg m, had soon stemmed its sluggish current to the 
other side. There, certainly, the dogs would be con 
founded the current carrying down the stream all 
traces of that slight, mysterious scent, which enables 
the quick-smelling hound to follow in the track of the 
fugitive. 

After crossing this bayou the water became so 
deep I could not run. I was now in what I after 
wards learned was the " Great Pacoudrie Swamp." 
It was filled with immense trees the sycamore, the 
gum, the cotton wood and cypress, and extends, I am 
informed, to the shore of the Calcasieu river. 
thirty or forty miles it is without inhabitants, save 
wjhnDeasJsj^rJl^^ the^ Jiger^ and 

great slimy reptiles, -tbat are crawling through- -tt 
everywhere. Long before I reached the bayou, in 
fact, from the time I struck the water until I emer 
ged from the swamp on my return, these 
surrounded me. I saw hundreds of moccasin snakes 
Every log and bog ejverv__trmik _ of a, fallen tree 
over which I was compelled to step or climb, was 
alive with them. They crawled away at my ap 
proach, but sometimes in my haste, I almost placed 
my hand or foot upon them. They __are_ poisonous 
serpents their bite more fatal than the rattlesnake s. 
Besides^! had lost one shoe, the sole having come 
entirely ofl^Jjeaymg the upper only dangling to my 
anklfi. 

I saw also majiy^anigators^ great and small, lying 
Hi the water, or on pieces of flood wood. The noise 1 



140 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

made usually startled them, when they moved mTand 
plunged into the deepest places. Sometimes, how 
ever, I would come directly upon a monster before 
observing it. In such cases, I would start back, run 
a short way round, and in that manner shun them. 
/Straight forward, they will run a short distance rapidly, 
I but do not possess the power of turning. In a crock- 
^ed race, there is no difficulty in evading them. 

About two o clock in the afternoon, I heard the 
last of the hounds. Probably they did not cross the 
bayou. Wet and weary, but relieved from the sense 
of instant peril, I continued on, more cautious and 
afraid, however, of the snakes and alligators than I 
had been in the earlier portion of my flight. ]STow, 
before stepping into a muddy pool, I would strike 
the water with a stick. If the waters moved, I would 
go around it, if not, would venture through. 

At length the sun went down, and gradually night s 
trailing mantle shrouded the great swamp in dark 
ness. Still I staggered on, fearing every instant 1 
should feel the dreadful sting of the moccasin, or be 
crushed within the jaws of some disturbed alligator. 
The dread of them now almost equaled the fear of 
the pursuing hounds. The moon arose after a time, 
its mild light creeping through the overspreading 
branches, loaded with long, pendent moss. I kept 
traveling forwards until after midnight, hoping all 
the while that I would soon emerge into some less 
desolate and dangerous region. But the water grew 
deeper and the walking more difficult than ever. 1 



NIGHT IN THE SWAMP. 141 

perceived it would be impossible to proceed much 
farther, and knew not, moreover, what hands I might 
fall into, should I succeed in reaching a human hab- 
"Station. Not provided with a pass, any white man 
\would be at liberty to arrest me, and place me in 
prison until such time as my master should " prove 
foroperty, pay charges, and take me away." I was an 
(.- 1 estray , and if so unfortunate as to meet a law-abiding 
citizen of Louisiana, he would deem it his duty to his 
neighbor, perhaps, to put me forthwith in the pound. 
/Really, it was difficult to determine which I had most 
/reason to fear dogs, alligators or men ! 

^ter midnight, however, I came to a halt. Ima 
gination cannot picture the dreariness of the scene. 
The swamp was resonant with the quacking of innu 
merable ducks ! Since the foundation of the earth, 
in all probability, a human footstep had never before 
so far penetrated the recesses of the swamp. It was 
not silent now silent to a degree that rendered it 
oppressive, as it was when the sun was shining in 
the heavens. My midnight intrusion had awakened 
the feathered tribes, which seemed to throng the mo 
rass in hundreds of thousands, and their garrulous 
throats poured forth such multitudinous sounds 
there was such a fluttering of wings such sullen 
plunges in the water all around me that I was af 
frighted and appalled. All the fowls of the air, and 
all the creeping things of the earth appeared to have 
assembled together in that particular place, for the 
purpose of filling it with clamor and confusion. Not 



14:2 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

by human dwellings not in crowded cities alone, 
are the sights and sounds of life. The wildest places 
of the earth are full of them. Even in the heart of 
that dismal swamp, God had provided a refuge and a 
dwelling place for millions of living things. 

The moon had now risen above the trees, when I 
resolved upon a new project. Thus far Iliad endeav 
ored to travel as nearly south as possible. Turning 
about I proceeded in a north-west direction, my ob 
ject being to strike the Pine "Woods in the vicinity of 
Master Ford s. Once within the shadow of his pro 
tection, I felt I would be comparatively safe. 
^ My clothes were in tatters, my hands, face, and 
body covered with scratches, received from the sharp 
knots of fallen trees, and in climbing over piles of 
brush and floodwood. My bare foot was full of thorns. 
I was besmeared with muck and mud, and the green 
slime that had collected on the surface of the dead 
water, in which I had been immersed to the neck 
many times during the day and night. Hour after-^ 
hour, and tiresome indeed had they become, I contin 
ued to plod along on my north-west course. The wa 
ter began to grow less deep, and the ground more firm 
under my feet. At last I reached the Pacoudrie, the 
pame wide bayou I had swam while " outward 
bound." I swam it again, and shortly after thought 
I heard a cock crow, but the sound was faint, and it 
might have been a mockery of the ear. The water 
receded from my advancing footsteps now I had 
left the bogs behind me now I was on dry land 



THE SLAVE AND HIS MASTER. 143 

that gradually ascended to the plain, and I knew 1 
was somewhere in the " Great Pine Woods." 

Just at day-break I came to an opening a sort of 
small plantation but one I had never seen before. 
In the edge of the woods I came upon two men^a 
slave and his young master, engaged in catching wild 
hogs. The white man I knew would demand iny 
pass, and not able to give him one, would take me 
into possession. I was too wearied to run again, and \ 
too desperate to be taken, and therefore adopted a 
ruse that proved entirely successful. Assuming a 
fierce expression, I walked directly towards him, look 
ing him steadily in the face. As I approached, he 
moved backwards with an air of alarm. It was plain 
he was much affrighted that he looked upon me as 
some infernal goblin, just arisen from the bowels of 
the swamp ! 

" Where does William Ford live ? " I demanded, ID 
no gentle tone. 

" He lives seven miles from here," was the reply. 

" Which is the way to his place ? " I again demand 
ed, trying to look more fiercely than ever. 

"Do you see those pine trees yonder?" he asked 
pointing to two, a mile distant, that rose far above* 
their fellows, like a couple of tall sentinels, overlook 
ing the broad expanse of forest. 

" I see them," was the answer. 

" At the feet of those pine trees," he continued 
" runs the Texas road. Turn to the left, and it wi! 
lead you to William Ford s." 



144 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

Without further parley, I hastened forward, happy 
as he was, no doubt, to place the widest possible dis 
tance between us. Striking the Texas road, I turned 
to the left hand, as directed, and soon passed a great 
fire, where a pile of logs were burning. I went to it, 
thinking I would dry my clothes ; but the gray light 
of the morning was fast breaking away, some pass 
ing white man might observe me ; besides, the heat 
overpowered me with the desire of sleep : so, linger 
ing no longer, I continued my travels, and finally, 
about eight o clock, reached the house of Master Ford. 

The slaves were all absent from the quarters, at 
their work. Stepping on to the piazza, I knocked at 
the door, which was soon opened by Mistress Ford. 
My appearance was so changed I was in such aw r o- 
begone and forlorn condition, she did not know me. 
Inquiring if Master Ford was at home, that good man 
made his appearance, before the question could be 
answered. I told him of my flight, and ail the par 
ticulars connected with it. He listened attentively, 
and when I had concluded, spoke to me kindly and 
sympathetically, and taking me to the kitchen, called 
John, and ordered him to prepare me food. I had 
tasted nothing since daylight the previous morning. 

When John had set the meal before me, the madam 
came out with a bowl of milk, and many little deli 
cious dainties, such as rarely please the palate of a 
biave. I was hungry, and I was weary, but neither 
looa nor rest afforded half the pleasure as did the 
blessed voices speaking kindness and consolation. It 



A)OD AND REST. 145 

was the oil and the wine which the Good Samaritan 
in the " Great Pine Woods " was ready to pour into 
the wounded spirit of the slave, who came to him, 
stripped of his raiment and half-dead. 

They left me in the cabin, that I might rest. Blessed 
be sleep ! It visiteth all alike, descending as the dews 
of heaven on the bond and free. Soon it nestled to my 
bosom, driving away the troubles that oppressed it, and 
bearing me to that shadowy region, where I saw again 
the faces, and listened to the voices of my children, 
who, alas, for aught I knew in my waking hours, had 
fallen into the arms of that oilier sleep, from which 
they never would arouse. 



CHAPTER XI. 

THE MISTRESS GARDEN THE CRIMSON AND GOLDEN FRUIT ORANO 

iND POMEGRANATE TREES RETURN TO BAYOU BCEUF MASTER FORD *8 

REMARKS ON THE WAY THE MEETING WITH TIBEATS HIS ACCOUNT OF 

THE CHASE FORD CENSURES HIS BRUTALITY ARRIVAL AT THE PLANTA 
TION ASTONISHMENT OF THE SLAVES ON SEEING ME THE ANTICIPATED 

FLOGGING KENTUCKY JOHN MR. ELDRET, THE PLANTER ELDRET s 

SAM TRIP TO THE "BIG CANE BRAKE" THE TRADITION OF "BUTTON S 

FIELD" FOREST TREES GNATS AND MOSQUITOS THE ARRIVAL OF BLACK 

WOMEN IN THE BIG CANE LUMBER WOMEN SUDDEN APPEARANCE OF 

TIBEATS HLS PROVOKING TREATMENT VISIT TO BAYOU BOEUF TUE 

SLAVE PASS SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY THE LAST OF ELIZA SALE TO 

EDWIN EPPS. 

AFTER a long sleep, sometime in the afternoon I 
awoke, refreshed, but very sore and stiff. Sally came 
in and talked with me, while John cooked me some 
dinner. Sally was in great trouble, as well as myself, 
one of her children being ill, and she feared it could 
not survive. Dinner over, after walking about the 
quarters for a while, visiting Sally s cabin and looking 
at the sick child, I strolled into the madam s garden. 
Though it was a season of the year when the voices 
of the birds are silent, and the trees are stripped of 
their summer glories in more frigid climes, yet the 
whole variety of roses were then blooming there, and 



GAUDEN. 147 

the long, luxuriant vines creeping over the frames. 
The crimson and golden fruit hung half hidden amidst 
the younger and older blossoms of the peach, the or 
ange, the plum, and the pomegranate ; for, in that 
region of almost perpetual warmth, the leaves are 
falling and the buds bursting into bloom the whole 
year long. 

I indulged the most grateful feelings towards Mas 
ter and Mistress Ford, and wishing in some manner 
to repay their kindness, commenced trimming the 
vines, and afterwards weeding out the grass from 
among the orange and pomegranate trees. The latter 
grows eight or ten feet high, and its fruit, though lar 
ger, is similar in appearance to the jelly -flower. It 
has the luscious flavor of the strawberry. Oranges, 
peaches, plums, and most other fruits are indigenous 
to the rich, warm soil of Avoyelles ; but the apple, the 
most common of them all in colder latitudes, is rare 
ly to be seen. 

Mistress Ford came out presently, saying it was 
praise-worthy in me, but I was not in a condition to la 
bor, and might rest myself at the quarters until mas 
ter should go down to Bayou Boeuf, which would not 
be that day, and it might not be the next. I said to 
her to be sure, I felt bad, and was stiff, and that 
foot pained me, the stubs and thorns having so 
torn it , but thought such exercise would not hurt 
me, and that it was a great pleasure to work for so 
good a mistress. Thereupon she returned to the great 
house, and for three days I was diligent in the garden, 



148 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

cleaning the walks, weeding the flower beds, and 
pulling up the rank grass beneath the jessamine vines, 
which the gentle and generous hand of my protectress 
had taught to clamber along the walls. 

The fourth morning, having become recruited and 
refreshed, Master Ford ordered me to make ready to 
accompany him to the bayou. There was but one 
saddle horse at the opening, all the others with 
the mules having been sent down to the plantation. 
I said I could walk, and bidding Sally and John good 
bye, left the opening, trotting along by the horse s 
side. 

That little paradise in the Great Pine Woods was 
the oasis in the desert, towards which my heart turn 
ed lovingly, during many years of bondage. I went 
forth from it now with regret and sorrow, not so over 
whelming, however, as if it had then been given me 
to know that I should never return to it again. 

Master Ford urged me to take his place occasion 
ally on the horse, to rest me ; but I said na, I was not 
tired, and it was better for me to walk than him. He 
said many kind and cheering things to me on the way, 
riding slowly, in order that I might keep pace with 
him. The goodness of God was manifest, he declared, 
in my miraculous escape from the swamp. As Dan 
iel came forth unharmed from the den of lions, and 
as Jonah had been preserved in the whale s belly, 
even so had I been delivered from evil by the Al 
mighty. He interrogated me in regard to the various 
fears and emotions I had experienced during the day 



FORD S REMARKS ON THE WAY. 149 

and tttfeht, and if I had felt, at any time, a desire to 
pray. 1 *elt forsaken of the whole world, I answered " 
him, and was praying mentally all the while. At 
such times, said he, the heart of man turns instinct 
ively towards his Maker. In prosperity, and whenr^ 
there is nothing to injure or make him afraid, he re 
members Him not, and is ready to defy Him ; but 
place him in the midst of dangers, cut him off from 
human aid, let the grave open before him then it 
is, in the time of his tribulation, that the scoffer and 
unbelieving man turns to God for help, feeling there 
is no other hope, or refuge, or safety, save in his pro 
tecting arm. 

So did that benignant man speak to me of this life 
and of the life hereafter ; of the goodness and power 
of God, and of the vanity of earthly things, as we 
journeyed along the solitary road towards Bayou 
Boeuf. 

When within some five miles of the plantation, we 
discovered a horseman at a distance, galloping tow 
ards us. As he came near I saw that it was Tibeats ! 
He looked at me a moment, but did not address me, 
and turning about, rode along side by side with Ford. 
I trotted silently at their horses heels, listing to their 
conversation. Ford informed him of my arrival in 
the Pine Woods three days before, of the sad plight I 
was in, and of the difficulties and dangers I had en 
countered. 

" Well," exclaimed Tibeats, omitting his usual oaths 
in the presence of Ford, " I never saw such running 



150 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

before. I ll bet him against a hundred dollars, he ll 
beat any nigger in Louisiana. I offered John David 
Cheney twenty-five dollars to catch him, dead or alive, 
Dut he outran his dogs in a fair race. Them Cheney 
dogs ain t much, after all. Dunwoodie s hounds 
would have had him down before he touched the pal- 
mettoes. Somehow the dogs got off the track, and we 
had to give up the hunt. We rode the horses as far 
as we could, and then kept on foot till the water was 
three feet deep. The boys said he was drowned, sure. 
I allow I wanted a shot at him mightily. Ever since, 
I have been riding up and down the bayou, but had nt 
much hope of catching him thought he was dead, 
sartin. Oh, he s a cuss to run that nigger is !" 

In this way Tibeats ran on, describing his search in 
the swamp, the wonderful speed with which I had 
fled before the hounds, and when he had finished, 
Master Ford responded by saying, I had always been 
a willing and faithful boy with him ; that he was sor 
ry we had such trouble ; that, according to Platt s 
story, he had been inhumanly treated, and that he, 
Tibeats, was himself in fault. Using hatchets and 
broad-axes upon slaves was shameful, and should not 
be allowed, he remarked. "This is no way of dealing 
with them, when first brought into the country. It 
will have a pernicious influence, and set them all run 
ning away. The swamps will be full of them. A lit 
tle kindness would be far more effectual in restraining 
ther.i, and r* idering them obedient, than the use of 
veapons. Every planter on the bayou 



FORD CENSURES TIBEATS. 151 

should frown upon such inhumanity. It is for the in 
terest of all to do so. It is evident enough, Mr. Tib- 
eats, that you and Platt cannot live together. You 
dislike him, and would not hesitate to kill him, and 
knowing it, he will run from you again through fear 
of his life. Now, Tibeats, you must sell him, or hire 
him out, at least. Unless you do so, 1 shall take 
measures to get him out of your possession." 

In this spirit Ford addressed him the remainder of 
the distance. I opened not my mouth. On reaching 
the plantation they entered the great house, while 1 
repaired to Eliza s cabin. The slaves were astonish 
ed to find me there, on returning from the field, sup 
posing I was drowned. That night, again, they gat 
ered about the cabin to listen to the story of my 
adventure. They took it for granted I would be whip 
ped, and that it would be severe, the well-known pen 
alty of running away being five hundred lashes. 

u Poor fellow," said Eliza, taking me by the hand,\ 
" it would have been better for you if you had drown- ) 
ed. You have a cruel master, and he will kill you / 
yet, I am afraid." 

Lawson suggested that it might be, overseer Cha- 
pin would be appointed to inflict the punishment, in 
which case it would not be severe, whereupon Mary, 
Rachel, Bristol, and others hoped it would be Master 
Ford, and then it would be no whipping at all. They 
all pitied me and tried to console me, and were sad in 
view of the castigation that awaited me, except Ken 
tucky John. There were no bounds to his laughter ; 




152 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

he filled the cabin with cachinnations, holding his sides 
to prevent an explosion, and the cause of his noisy 
mirth was the idea of my outstripping the hounds. 
Somehow, he looked at the subject in a comical light. 
" 1 know d dey would nt cotch him, when he run cross 
de plantation. 0, de lor , did iit- Platt pick his feet 
right up, tho , hey ? When dem dogs got whar he 
was, he was nt dar haw, haw, haw ! O, de lor a 
mity !" and then Kentucky John relapsed into an 
other of his boisterous fits. 

Early the next morning, Tibeats left the plantation. 
In the course of the forenoon, while sauntering about 
the gin-house, a tall, good-looking man came to me, 
and inquired if I was Tibeats boy, that youthful ap 
pellation being applied indiscriminately to slaves 
even though they may have passed the number of 
three score years and ten. I took off my hat, and an 
swered that I was. 

"How would you like to work for me?" he in 
quired. 

" Oh, I would like to, very much," said I, inspired 
with a sudden hope of getting away from Tibeats. 

" You worked under Myers at Peter Tanner s, didn t 
you ? " 

I replied I had, adding some complimentary re 
marks that Myers had made concerning me. 

" Well, boy," said he, " I have hired you of your 
master to work for me in the " Big Cane Brake, 1 
thirty-eight miles from here, down on Red River." 

This man was Mr. Eldret, who lived below Ford s, 



ELDKET, THE PLANTER. 

on the same side of the bayou. I accompanied -him 
to his plantation, and in the morning started with his 
slave Sam, and a wagon-load of provis : as, drawn by 
four mules, for the Big Cane, Eldret and Myers hav 
ing preceded us on horseback. This Sam was a na 
tive of Charleston, where he had a mother, brother 
and sisters. He " allowed " a common word among 
both black and white that Tibeats was a mean man. 
and hoped, as I most earnestly did also, that his mas 
ter would buy me. 

We proceeded down the south shore of the bayou, 
crossing it at Carey s plantation ; from thence to II uif 
Power, passing which, we came upon the BayoiT 
Rouge road, which runs towards Red River. Af.ei 
passing through Bayou Rouge Swamp, and just at 
sunset, turning from the highway, we struck off into 
the " Big Cane Brake." We followed an unbeaten 
track, scarcely wide enough to admit the wagon. 
The cane, such as are used for fishing-rods, were as 
thick as they could stand. A person could not be 
seen through them the distance of a rod. The paths 
of wild beasts run through them in various directions 
the bear and the American tiger abounding in these 
brakes, and wherever there is a basin of stagnant wa 
ter, it is full of alligators. 

We kept on our lonely course through the " Big 
Cane " several miles, when we entered a clearing, 
known as " Sutton s Field." Many ^ears before, a 
man by the name of Sutton had penetrated the wilder 
ness of cane to this solitary place. Tradition has it, 
G* 



154 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

that he fled thither, a fugitive, not from service, but 
from justice. Here he lived alone recluse and her 
mit of the swamp with his own hands planting the 
seed and gathering in the harvest. One day a band 
of Indians stole upon his solitude, and after a bloody 
battle, overpowered and massacred him. For miles 
the country round, in the slaves quarters, and on the 
piazzas of " great houses," where white children listen 
to superstitious tales, the story goes, that that spot, in 
the heart of the " Big Cane," is a haunted place. For 
more than a quarter of a century, human voices had 
rarely, if ever, disturbed the silence of the clearing. 
Rank and noxious weeds had overspread the once cul 
tivated field serpents sunned themselves on the door 
way of the crumbling cabin. It was indeed a dreary 
picture of desolation. 

- Passing " Button s Field," we followed a new-cut 
road two miles farther, which brought us to its ter 
mination. We had now reached the wild lands of 
Mr. Eldret, where he contemplated clearing up an 
extensive plantation. We went to work next morn 
ing with our cane-knives, and cleared a sufficient 
space to allow the erection of two cabins one for 
Myers and Eldret, the other for Sam, myself, and the 
Blaves that were to join us. We were now in the 
midst of trees of enormous growth, whose wide-spread 
ing branches almost shut out the light of the sun, 
while the space between the trunks was an impervi 
ous mass of cane, with here and there an occasional 
palmetto. 



IJFE IN THE BIG CANE BRAKE. 155 

The bay and the sycamore, the oak and the cypress, 
reach a growth unparalleled, in those fertile lowlands 
bordering the Red River. From every tree, moreover, 
hang long, large masses of moss, presenting to the eye 
unaccustomed to them, a striking and singular appear 
ance. This moss, in large quantities, is sent north, 
and there used for manufacturing purposes. 

We cut down oaks, split them into rails, and with 
these erected temporary cabins. We covered the 
roofs with the broad palmetto leaf, an excellent sub 
stitute for shingles, as long as they last. 
The greatest annoyance I met with here were small 
flies, gnats and mosquitoes. They swarmed the air. 
They penetrated the porches of the ear, the nose, the 
eyes, the mouth. They sucked themselves beneath 
the skin. It was impossible to brush or beat them 
off. It seemed, indeed, as if they would devour us 
carry us away piecemeal, in their small tormenting 
mouths. 

A lonelier spot, or one more disagreeable, than the 
centre of the " Big Cane Brake," it would be difficult 
to conceive ; yet to me it was a paradise, in compari 
son with any other place in the company of Master 
Tibeats. I labored hard, and oft-times was weary and 
fatigued, yet I could lie down at night in peace, and 
arise in the morning without fear. 

In the course of a fortnight, four black girls came 
down from Eldret s plantation Charlotte, Fanny, 
Cresia and Kelly. They were all large and stout. 
Axes were put into their hands, and they were sent 



156 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

out with Sain and myself to cut trees. They wer 
excellent choppers, the largest oak or sycamore stand 
ing but a brief season before their heavy and well- 
directed blows. At piling logs, they were equal to 
any man. There are lumberwomen as well as lum 
bermen in the forests of the South. In fact, in the 
region of the Bayou Boeuf they perform their share of 
all the labor required on the plantation. They ploug 
drag, drive team, clear wild lands, work on the high 
way, and so forth. Some planters, owning large cot 
ton and sugar plantations, have none other than the 
labor of slave women. Such an one is Jim Burns, 
who lives on the north shore of the bayou, opposite 
the plantation of John Fogaman. 

On our arrival in the brake, Eldret promised me, 
if I worked well, I might go up to visit my friends at 
Ford s in four weeks. On Saturday night of the fifth 
week, I reminded him of his promise, when he told 
me I had done so well, that I might go. I had set 
my heart upon it, and Eldret s announcement thrilled 
me with pleasure. I was to return in time to com 
mence the labors of the day on Tuesday morning. 

While indulging the pleasant anticipation of so soon 
meeting my old friends again, suddenly the hateful 
form of Tibeats appeared among us. He inquired 
how Myers and Platt got along together, and was 
told, very well, and that Platt was going up to Ford s 
plantation in the morning on a visit. 

u Poll, poh ! " sneered Tibeats ; " it isn t worth while 
the nigger will get unsteady, lie can t go." 



TREATMENT OF TTBEATS. 157 

But Eldret insisted I had worked faithfully that 
lie had given me his promise, and that, under the cir 
cumstances, I ought not to be disappointed. They 
then, it being about dark, entered one cabin and 1 
the other. I could not give up the idea of going ; it 
was a sore disappointment. Before morning I resolved, 
if Eldret made no objection, to leave at all hazards. 
At daylight I was at his door, with my blanket rolled 
up into a bundle, and hanging on a stick over my 
shoulder, waiting for a pass. Tibeats came out pre- 
- sently in one of his disagreeable moods, washed his 
face, and going to a stump near by, sat down upon it, 
apparently busily thinking with himself. After stand 
ing there a long time, impelled by a sudden impulse 
of impatience, I started off. 

"Are you going without a pass?" he cried out 
to me. 

" Yes, master, I thought I wou!4" I answered. 

" How do you think you ll get there ? " demanded 
he. 

" Don t know," was all the reply I made him. 
f " You d be taken and sent to jail, where you ought 
/ to be, before you got half-way there," he added, pass 
ing into the cabin as he said it. He came out sooi? 
with the pass in his hand, and calling me a " d d nig 
ger that deserved a hundred lashes," threw it on the 
ground. I picked it up, and hurried away right 
speedily. 

A slave caught off his master s plantation without 
k pass, may be seized and whipped by any white man / 




158 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

whom lie meets. The one I now received wa>$ dated, 
and read as follows : 

/" Platt has permission to go to Ford s plantation, 
on Bayou Boeuf, and return by Tuesday morning. 
rr-1 *>. \ JOHN M. TIBEATS." 

jS* I Tliis is the usual form. On the way, a great many 
Demanded it, read it, and passed on. Those having 
(he air and appearance of gentlemen, whose dress 
ndicated the possession of wealth, frequently took no 
notice of me whatever ; but a shabby fellow, an un 
mistakable loafer, never failed to hail me, and to 
scrutinize and examine me in the most thorough man 
ner. Catching runaways is sometimes a money-mak 
ing business. If, after advertising, no owner appears, 
Teylnay be sold to the highest bidder ; and certain 
fees are allowed the finder for his services, at all 
events, even if reclaimed. "A mean white," there 
fore, a name applied to the species loafer con- ; 
aiders it a god-send to meet an unknown negro with- I 
out a pass. 

There are no inns along the highways in that por 
tion of the State where I sojourned. I was wholly 
destitute of money, neither did I carry any provisions, 
on my journey from the Big Cane to Bayou Boeuf ; 
nevertheless, with his pass in his hand, a slave need 
never suffer from hunger or from thirst. It is only 
necessary to present it to the master or overseer of a 
plantation, and state his wants, when he will be sent 
round to the kitchen and provided with food or shel 
ter, as the case may require. The traveler stops al 



VISIT TO BAYOU BCEUF. 159 

/any house and calls for a meal with as much freedom 

as if it was a public tavern. It is the general custom 

of the country. Whatever their faults may be, it is 

i certain the inhabitants along Red River, and around 

I the bayous in the interior of Louisiana are not want- 

> ing in hospitality. 

I arrived at Ford s plantation towards the close of 
the afternoon, passing the evening in Eliza s cabin, 
with Lawson, Rachel, and others of my acquaintance. 
"When we left Washington Eliza s form was round and 
plump. She stood erect, and in her silks and jewels, 
presented a picture of graceful strength and elegance. 
Now she was but a thin shadow of her former self. 
Her face had become ghastly haggard, and the once 
straight and active form was bowed down, as if bear 
ing the weight of a hundred years. Crouching on her 
cabin floor, and clad in the coarse garments of a slave, 
old Elisha Berry would not have recognized the moth 
er of his child. I never saw her afterwards. Havings 
become useless in the cotton-field, she was bartered 
for a trifle, to some man residing in the vicinity of 
Peter Compton s. Grief had gnawed remorselessly at 
her heart, until her strength was gone ; and for that, 
her last master, it is said, lashed and abused her most 
unmercifully. But he could not whip back the do- 
parted vigor of her youth, nor straighten up that bend 
ed body to its full height, such as it was when ho? 
children were around her, and the light of freedom 
was shining on her path. 
I learned the particulars relative to her departure 



160 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

from this world, from some of Compton s slaves, who 
had come over Red River to the bayou, to assist 
young Madam Tanner during the " busy season." 
She became at length, they said, utterly helpless, for 
several weeks lying on the ground floor in a dilapida 
ted cabin, dependent upon the mercy of her fellow 
thralls for an occasional drop of water, and a morsel 
of food. Her master did not " knock her on the 
head," as is sometimes done to put a suffering animaT 
out of misery, buHeft her .unprovided for, aiid ^pro 
tected, to linger through a life of pain and wretched 
ness to its natunil close. AVlieii the hands ivturned 
from the field one night they found her dead ! Du 
ring the day, the Angel of the Lord, who movetli in 
visibly over all the earth, gathering in his harvest of 
departing souls, had silently entered the cabin of the 
dying woman, and taken her from thence. She was 
free at last ! 

Next day, rolling up my blanket, I sta ted on my 
return to the Big Cane. After traveling five miles, 
at a place called Huff Power, the ever-prusent Tibe- 
ats met me in the road. He inquired why I was go 
ing back so soon, and when informed I was anxious 
to return by the time I was directed, he said I need 
go no farther than the next plantation, as he had that 
day sold me to Edwin Epps. We walked down into 
the yard, where we met the latter gentleman, who ex 
amined me, and asked me the usual questions pro 
pounded by purchasers. Having been duly delivered 
orer, I was ordered to the quarters, and at the same 



BALE TO EDWIN EPP8. 161 

time directed to make a hoe and axe handle foi my 
self. 

I was now no longer the property of Tibe&ts his 
dog, his brute, dreading his wrath and cruelty day 
and night ; and whoever or whatever my new master 
might prove to be, I could not, certainly, regret the 
change. So it was good news when the sale was an 
nounced, and with a sigh of relief I sat down for the 
first time in my new abode. 

Tibeats soon after disappeared from that section of 
the country. Once afterwards, and only once, I 
caught a glimpse of him. It was many miles from 
Bayou Boeuf. He was seated in the doorway of a 
low groggery. I was passing, in a drove of slaves, 
through St. JkfaTr s parish. 



CHAPTER XII. 



M6RSONAL APPEARANCE OF EPPS EPPS, DRUNK AND SOBER A GLTMP8I 

OF HIS HISTORY COTTON GROWING THE MODE OF PLOUGHING ANC 

PREPARING GROUND OF PLANTING OF HOEING, OF PICKING, OF TREAT 
ING RAW HANDS THE DIFFERENCE IN COTTON PICKERS PATSEY A 

REMARKABLE ONE TASKED ACCORDING TO ABILITY BEAUTY OF A 

COTTON FIELD THE SLAVE S LABORS KSAR ON APPROACHING THE GIN- 
HOUSE WEIGHING "CHORES" CABIN LIFE THE CORN MILL 

THE USES OF THE GOURD FEAR OF OVERSLEEPING FEAR CONTINUAL 
LY MODE OF CULTIVATING CORN SWEET POTATOES FERTILITY OF 

THE SOIL MTTENING HOGS PRESERVING BACON RAISING CATTLE 

SHOOTING-MATCHES GARDEN PRODUCTS FLOWERS AND VERDURE. 



EDWIN EPPS, of whom much will be said during 
the remainder of this history, is a large, portly, heavy- 
bodied man with light hair, high cheek bones, and a 
Roman nose of extraordinary dimensions. lie has 
bine eyes, a fair complexion, and is, as I should say, 
full six feet high. He has the sharp, inquisitive ex 
pression of a jockey. His manners are repulsive 
and coarse, and his language gives speedy and une 
quivocal evidence that he has never enjoyed the ad 
vantages of an education. He has the faculty of 
saying most provoking things, in that respect even 
excelling old Peter Tanner. At the time I came into 
his possession, Edwin Epps was fond of the bottle, his 



HABITS OF EDWIN EPPS. 163 

" sprees" sometimes extending over the space of two 
whole weeks. Latterly, however, he had reformed 
his habits, and when I left him, was as strict a speci 
men of temperance as could be found on Bayou 
JBceuf. When " in his cups," Master Epps was a roys- 
tering, blustering, noisy fellow, whose chief delight 
was in dancing with his " niggers," or lashing them 
about the yard with his long whip, just for the pleas 
ure of hearing them -screech and scream, as the great 
welts were planted on their backs. When sober, he 
was silent, reserved and cunning, not beating; us in- 

_. * **- , i _ O/ O 

discriminately, as in his drunken moments, biflf send 
ing the end of his rawhide to some tender spot of a 
lagging slave, with a sly dexterity peculiar to himself."" 

He had been a driver and overseer in his younger 
years, but at this time was in possession of a planta 
tion on Bayou Huff Power, two and a half miles from 
Holmesville, eighteen from Marksville, and twelve 
from Cheney ville. It belonged to Joseph B. Roberts, 
his wife s uncle, and was leased by Epps. His prin 
cipal business was raising cotton^and inasmuch as 
some may read this book who have never seen a cot 
ton field, a description of the manner of its culture 
may not be out of place. 

The ground is prepared by throwing up beds 01 
ridges, with the plough back-furrowing, it is called. 
Oxen and mules, the latter almost exclusively, an 
used in ploughing. The women as frequently as tin 
men perform this labor, feeding, currying, and ta 
king care of their teams, and in all respects doing th 



164 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

field and stable work, precisely as do the ploughboys 
of the North. 

The beds, or ridges, are six feet wide, that is, from 
water furrow to water furrow. A plough d -awn by 
one mule is then run along the top of the ridge or 
center of the bed, making the drill, into which a girl 
usually drops the seed, which she carries in a bag 
hung round her neck. Behind her comes a mule 
and harrow, covering up the seed, so that two mules, 
three slaves, a plough and harrow, are employed 
in planting a row of cotton. This is done in the 
months of March and April. Corn is planted in Feb 
ruary. When there are no cold rains, the cotton usu 
ally makes its appearance in a week. In the course 
of eight or ten days afterwards the first hoeing is 
commenced. This is performed in part, also, by the 
aid of the plough and mule. The plough passes as 
near as possible to the cotton on both sides, throw 
ing the furrow from it. Slaves follow with their hoes, - 
cutting up the grass and cotton, leaving hills two feet 
and a half apart. This is called scraping cotton. In 
two weeks more commences the second hoeing. 
This time the furrow is thrown towards the cotton. 
Only one stalk, the largest, is now left standing in 
eacli hill. In another fortnight it is hoed the third 
time, throwing the furrow towards the cotton in the 
Bame manner as before, and killing all the grass be 
tween the rows. About the first of July, when it is 
a foot high or thereabouts, it is hoed the fourth and 
last time. Now the whole space between the rows 



COTTON GROWING. 165 

\Js ploughed, leaving a deep water furrow in tlie center. 
Lhiring all these hoeings the_ overseer or driver 
follows the slaves on horseback with a whip, such aa 
\has been described. The fastest lioer takes the lead 
row. He is usually about a rod in advance of his 
companions. If one of them passes him, he is whip- 
3ed. If orie~ Falls behind or is a moment idle, he is 
whipped. In fact, the lash is flying from morning 




until night, the whole day long. The hoein< 
hus continues from April until July, a field having 
no sooner been finished once, than it is commenced 
again. 

In the latter part of August begins the cotton pick- 
ng season. At this time each slave is presented 
with a sack. A strap is fastened to it, which goes 
over the neck, holding the mouth of the sack breast 
high, while the bottom reaches nearly to the ground 
Each one is also presented with a large basket that 
will hold about two barrels. This is to put the cotton 
in when the sack is filled. The baskets are carried 
to the field and placed at the beginning of the rows. 
When a new hand, one unaccustomed to the busi 
ness, is sent for the first time into the field, he is 
whipped up smartly, and made for that day to pick 
as fast as he can possibly. At night it is weighed, 
so that his capability in cotton picking is known 
He must bring in the same weight each night follow 
ing. If it falls short, it is considered evidence that 
he has been laggard, and a greater or less numbej 
of lashes is the penalty. 



166 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

An ordinary day s work is two hundred pounds. 
A slave who is accustomed to picking, is punished, 
if he or she brings in a less quantity than that. 
There is a great difference among them as regards 
this kind of labor. Some of them seem to have a 
natural knack, or quickness, which enables them to 
pick with great celerity, and with both hands, while 
others, with whatever practice or industry, are utterly 
unable to come up to the ordinary standard. Such 
hands are taken from the cotton field and employed 
in other business. Patsey, of whom I shall have 
more to say, was known as the most remarkable cot 
ton picker on Bayou Boeuf. She picked with both 
hands and with such surprising rapidity, that five 
hundred pounds a day was not unusual for her. 
^Each one is tasked, therefore, according to his 
picking abilities, nojie^however, to come short of two 
hundred weight. (1^ being unskillful always in that 
business, would have satisfied my master by bringing 
in the latter quantity, while on the other hand, Eat 
sey would surely have been beaten it she failed to 
produce twice as much.-^ 

The cotton grows from five to seven feet high, each 
stalk having a great many branches, shooting out in 
all directions, and lapping each other above the wa 
ter furrow. 

There are few sights more pleasant to the eye, 
than a wide cotton field when it is in the bloom. It 
presents an appearance of purity, like an immaculate 
expanse of light, new-fallen snow. 



PICKING. 167 

Sometimes the slave picks down one side of a row, 
and back upon the other, but more usually, there is 
one on either side, gathering all that has blossomed, 
leaving the unopened bolls for a succeeding picking. 
When the sack is tilled, it is emptied into the basket and 
trodden down. It is necessary to be extremely care 
ful the first time going through the field, in order not 
to break the branches off the stalks. The cotton 
will not bloom upon a broken branch. Epps never 
failed to inflict the severest chastisement on the un 
lucky servant who, either carelessly or unavoidably, 
was guilty in the least degree in this respect. 

The hands are required to be in the cotton field as 
soon as it is light in the morning, and, with the ex 
ception of ten or fifteen minutes, which is given them 
at noon to swallow their allowance of cold bacon, 
they are not permitted to be a moment idle until it 
is too dark to see, and when the moon is full, they 
often times labor till the middle of the night. They 
do not dare to stop even at dinner time, nor return 
to the quarters, however late it be, until the order to 
halt is given by the driver. 

The day^s work over in the field, the baskets are 
" toted," or in other words, carried to the gin-house, 
where the cotton is weighed. ~No matter how fa 
tigued and weary he may be no matter how much 
he longs for sleep and rest a slave never approaches 
the gin-house with his basket of cotton but with fear. 
If it falls short in weight if he has not performed 
the full task appointed him, he knows that he must 



168 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

suffer. And if lie lias exceeded it by ten or twenty 
pounds, in all probability his master will measure the 
next day s task accordingly. So, whether he has too 
little or too much, his approach to the gin-house is 
always with fear and trembling. Most frequently 
they have too little, and therefore it is they are not 
anxious to leave the field. After weighing, follow the^ 
whippings ; and then the baskets are carried to the 
cotton house, and their contents stored away like hay, 
all hands being sent in to tramp it down. If the cot 
ton is not dry, instead of taking it to the gin-house 
at once, it is laid upon platforms, two feet high, and 
some three times as wide, covered with boards or 
plank, with narrow walks running between them. 

This done, the labor of the day is not yet ended, by 
any means. Each one must then attend to his re 
spective chores. One feeds the mules, another the 
swine another cuts the wood, and so forth ; besides, 
the packing is all done by candle light. Finally, at 
a late hour, they reach the quarters, sleepy arid over 
come with the long day s toil. Then a fire must be 
kindled in the cabin, the corn ground in the small 
hand-mill, and supper, and dinner for the next day in 
the field, prepared. All that is allowed them is corn 
and bacon, which is given out at the corncrib and 
gmoke -house every Sunday morning. Each one YQ-/ 
ceives, as his weekly allowance, three and a half 
pounds of bacon, and corn enough to make a peck of 
meal. That is all no tea, coffee, sugar, and with 
the exception of a very scanty sprinkling now and 



CABIN LIFE. 

then, no salt. I can say, from a ten years residence 
with Master Epps, that no slave of his is ever likely 
to suffer from the gout, superinduced by excessive 
high living. Master Epps hogs were fed on shelled 
corn it wa$ thrown out to his "niggers" in the 
ear. The former, he thought, would fatten faster by 
shelling, and soaking it in the w^ater -the latter, 
perhaps, if treated in the same manner, might grow 
too fat to labor. Master Epps was a shrewd calA 
culator, and knew how to manage his own animals, 
drunk or sober. 

The corn mill stands in the yard beneath a shelter. 
It is like a common coffee mill, the hopper holding 
about six quarts. There was one privilege which 
Master Epps granted freely to every slave he had. 
They might grind their corn nightly, in such small 
quantities as their daily wants required, or they 
might grind the whole week s allowance at one time, 
on Sundays, just as they preferred. A. very gener 
ous man was Master Epps ! 

I kept my corn in a small wooden box, the meal in 
a gourd ; and, by the way, the gourd is one of the 
most convenient and necessary utensils on a planta 
tion. Besides supplying the place of all kinds of 
crockery in a slave cabin, it is used for carrying 
water to the fields. Another, also, contains the din 
ner. It dispenses with the necessity of pails, dippers, 
basins, and such tin and wooden superfluities alto 
gether. 

When the corn is ground, and fire is made, the 
H 



170 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

bacon is taken down from the nail on which it hangs, 
a slice cut off and thrown upon the coals to broil. 
The majority of slaves have no knife, much less a 
fork. They cut their bacon with the axe at the wood 
pile. The corn meal is mixed with a little water 
placed in the fire, and baked. When it is "done 
brown," the ashes are scraped off, and being placed 
upon a chip, which answers for a table, the tenant of 
the slave hut is ready to sit down upon the ground to 
supper. By this time it is usually midnight. The 
same fear of punishment with which they approach 
the gin-house, possesses them again on lying down to 
get a snatch of rest. It is the fear of oversleeping in 
the morning. Such an offence would certainly be 
attended with not less than twenty lashes. With a 
prayer that he may be on his feet and wide awake at 
the first sound of the horn, he sinks to his slumbers 
nightly. 

The softest couches in the world are not to be found 
in the log mansion of the slave. The one whereon I 
reclined year after year, was a plank twelve inches 
wide and ten feet long. My pillow was a stick of 
wood. The Deddtng was a coarse blanket, and not a 
rag or shred beside. Moss might be used, were it not 
that it directly breeds a swarm of fleas. 

The cabin is constructed of logs, without floor or 
window. The latter is altogether unnecessary, the 
crevices between the logs admitting sufficient light. 
In stormy weather the rain drives through them, 
rendering it comfortless and extremely disagreeable. 



171 

The rude door hangs on great wooden hinges. In one 
end is constructed an awkward fire-place. 

An hour before day light the horn is blown. Then 
the slaves arouse, prepare their breakfast, fill a gourd 
with water, in another deposit their dinner of cold 
bacon and corn cake, and hurry to the field again. 
It is an offence invariably followed by a flogging, to 
be found at the quarters after daybreak. Then the 
fears and labors of another day begin ; and until its 
close there is no such thing as rest. He fears he will 
be caught lagging through the day; he fears to 
approach the gin-house with his basket-load oFcotton 
at night ; he fears, when he lies down, that he will 
oversleep himself in the morning. Such is a true, 
faithful, unexaggerated picture and description of 
the slave s daily life, during the time of cotton-pi < 
ing, on the shores of Bayou Bceuf. 

In the month of January, generally, the fourth and 
last picking is completed. Then commences the har 
vesting of corn. This is considered a secondary crop, 
and receives far less attention than the cotton. It is 
planted, as already mentioned, in February. Corn is 
grown in that region for the purpose of fattening 
hogs and feeding slaves ; very little, if any, being sent 
to market. It is the white variety, the ear of great 
size, and the stalk growing to the height of eight, 
and often times ten feet. In August the leaves are 
stripped off, dried in the sun, bound in small bundles, 
and stored away as provender for the mules and oxen. 
A.lter this the slaves go through the field, turning 



TWELVE Yfe^lrS A SLAVE. 

down the ear, for the purpose of keeping the rains 
from penetrating to the grain. It is left in this condi 
tion until after cotton-picking is over, whether earlier 
or later. Then the ears are separated from the stalks, 
and deposited in the corncrib with the husks on; 
otherwise, stripped of the husks, the weevil would 
destroy it. The stalks are left standing in the field. 

The Carolina, or sweet potato, is also grown in that 
region to some extent. They are not fed, however, 
to hogs or cattle, and are considered but of small im 
portance. They are preserved by placing them upon 
the surface of the ground, with a slight covering of 
earth or cornstalks. There is not a cellar on Bayou 
Bceuf. The ground is so low it would fill with water. 
Potatoes are worth from two to three "bits," or 
shillings a barrel ; corn, except when there is an 
unusual scarcity, can be purchased at the same rate. 

As soon as the cotton and corn crops are secured, 
the stalks are pulled up, thrown into piles and burned. 
The ploughs are started at the same time, throwing 
up the beds again, preparatory to another planting. 
The soil, in the parishes of Ilapides and Avoyelles, 
and throughout the whole country, so far as my obser 
vation extended, is of exceeding richness and fertility. 
It is a kind of marl, of a brown or reddish color. It 
does not require those invigorating composts neces 
sary to more barren lands, and on the same field the 
same crop is grown for many successive years. 

Ploughing, planting, picking cotton, gathering the 
corn, and pulling and burning stalks, occupies the 



PRESERVING BACON. 

whole of the four seasons of the year. Drawing and 
cutting wood, pressing cotton, fattening and killing 
hogs, are but incidental labors. 

In the month of September or October, the hogs 
are run out of the swamps by dogs, and confined in 
pens. On a cold morning, generally about New 
Year s day, they are slaughtered. Each carcass is 
cut into six parts, and piled one above the other in 
salt, upon large tables in the smoke-house. In this 
condition it remains a fortnight, when it is hung up. 
and a fire built, and continued more than half the 
time during the remainder of the year. This thorouglv 
smoking is necessary to prevent the bacon from be 
coming infested with w T orms. In so warm a climate 
it is difficult to preserve it, and very many times my 
self and my companions have received our weekly 
allowance of three pounds and a half, when it was 
full of these disgusting vermin. 

Although the swamps are overrun with cattle, they 
are never made the source of profit, to any considera 
ble extent. The planter cuts his mark upon the ear, 
or brands his initials upon the side, and turns them 
into the swamps, to roam unrestricted within their 
almost limitless confines. They are the Spanish breed, 
small and spike-horned. I have known of droves 
being taken from Bayou Boeuf, but it is of very rare 
occurrence. The value of the best cows is about five 
dollars each. Two quarts at one milking, would be 
considered an unusual large quantity. They furnish 
little tallow, and that of a soft, inferior quality. Not 



174: TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 

withstanding the great number of cows that throng 
the swamps, the planters are indebted to the North 
for their cheese and butter, which is purchased in the 
New-Orleans market. Salted beef is not an article of 
food either in the great house, or in the cabin. 

Master Epps was accustomed to attend shooting 
matches for the purpose of obtaining what fresh beef 
he required. These sports occurred weekly at the 
neighboring village of Holmesville. Fat beeves are 
driven thither and shot at, a stipulated price being 
demanded for the privilege. The lucky marksman 
divides the flesh among his fellows, and in this man 
ner the attending planters are supplied. 

The great number of tame and untamed cattle 
which swarm the woods and swamps -of Bayou Boeuf. 
most probably suggested that appellation to the 
French, inasmuch as the term, translated, signifies the 
creek or river of the wild ox. 

Garden products, such as cabbages, turnips and the 
like, are cultivated for the use of the master and his 
family. They have greens and vegetables at all times 
and seasons of the year. " The grass withereth and 
the flower fadeth" before the desolating winds of au 
tumn in the chill northern latitudes, but perpetual 
verdure overspreads the hot lowlands, and flowers 
bloom in the heart of winter, in the region of Bayou 
Boeuf. 

There are no meadows appropriated to the cultiva 
tion of the grasses. The leaves of the corn supply a 
sufficiency of food for the laboring cattle, while the 



LIFE AT THE SOUTH. 175 

rest provide for themselves all the year in the ever 
growing pasture. 

There are many other peculiarities of climate, 
habit, custom, and of the manner of living and labor 
ing at the South, but the foregoing, it is supposed, 
will give the reader an insight a.ndjreneral idea of^ 
life on a cotton plantation in Louisiana. The mode / 
of cultivating cano, and the process of sugar maun 
fecturing. will be mentioned in another 



CHAPTER XIII 

tHKCFRIOT * *IB-HEIVE SYMPTOMS OF APPROACHING ILLNESS COWTINUI 

TO DECLINE THE WHIP INEFFECTUAL CONFINED TO THE CABIN VISIT 

BY DR. WINES PARTIAL RECOVERY FAILURE AT COTTON PICKING 

WHAT MAY BE HEARD ON EPPS PLANTATION LASHES GRADUATED EPP8 

IN A WHIPPING MOOD KPPS IN A DANCING MOOD DESCRIPTION OK THH 

DANCE LOSS OF REST NO EXCUSE EPPS CHARACTERISTICS JIM BURNS 

REMOVAL FROM HUFF POWKK TO BAYOU BOEUF DESCRIPTION OF UNCLK 

ABRAM ; OF WILEY; OF AUNT PHXRE; OF BOB, HENRY, AND EDWARD; OF 
PATSEY; WITH A GENEALOGICAL ACCOUNT OF EACH SOMETHING OF THEIB 

PAST HISTORY, AND PECULIAR OHARACT ERISTICS JEALOUSY AND LUST 

PATSEY, THE VICTIM. 

ON my arrival at Master Epps , in obedience to his 
order, the first business upon which I entered was the 
making of an axe-helve. The handles in use there 
are simply a round, straight stick. I made a crooked 
one, shaped like those to which I had been accustom- 
ed at the North. When finished, and presented to 
Epps, he looked at it with astonishment, unable to 
determine exactly what it was. He had never before 
Been such a handle, and when I explained its conveni 
ences, he was forcibly struck with the novelty of the 
idea. He kept it in the house a long time, and when his 
friends called, was wont to exhibit it as a curiosity. 

It was now the season of hoeing. I was first seit 



Al I KO ACHING ILLNESS. 177 

into the corn-field, and afterwards set to scraping cot- 
ton. In tins employment I remained until hoeing 
time was nearly passed, when I began to experience, 
the symptoms of approaching illness. I was attacked/ 
with chills, which were succeeded by a burning fever.1 
I became weak and emaciated, and frequently so diz 
zy that it caused me to reel and stagger like a drunk 
en man. ^"evertlielesSj_I ..was compelle^to^Jkee^ji 
myjrow. AVhen in health I found little difficulty in 
keeping pace with my fellow-laborers, but now it 
seemed to be an utter impossibility. Often I fell be- 
hind, when the driver s lash was sure to greet my L 
back, infusing into my sick and drooping body a little 
temporary energy. 1 continued to decline untTl^at- 
length the whip became entirely ineffectual. The 
sharpest sting of the rawhide could not arouse me. 
Finally, in September, when the busy season of cotton 
picking was at hand, I was unable to leave my cabin. 
Up to this time I had received no medicine, nor any 
attention from my master or mistress. The old cook 
visited me occasionally, preparing me corn-coffee, and 
sometimes boiling a bit of bacon, when I had grown 
too feeble to accomplish it myself. 

When it was said that I would die, Master Epps, 
unwilling to bear the loss, which the death of an ani 
mal worth a thousand dollars would bring upon him, 
concluded to incur the expense of sending to Holmes- 
ville for Dr. "Wines. He announced to Epps that it 
was the effect of the climate, and there was a proba 
bility of his losing me. He directed me to eat no 
a* u 



178 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 



eat, and to partake of no more food than was abso 
itely necessary to sustain life. Several weeks elaps- 

, during which time, under the scanty diet to which 

was subjected, I had partially recovered. One 
morning, long before I was in a proper condition to 
labor, Epps appeared at the cabin door, and, present 
ing me a sack, ordered me to the cotton field. At this 
time I had had no experience whatever in cotton pick 
ing. It was an awkward business indeed. While 
others used both hands, snatching the cotton and de- 
ositing it in the mouth of the sack, with a precision 
ana dexterity that was incomprehensible to me, I 
had to seize the boll with one hand, and deliberately 
draw out the white, gushing blossom with the other. 

Depositing the cotton in the sack, moreover, was a 
difficulty that demanded the exercise of both hands 
and eyes. I was compelled to pick it from the ground 
where it would fall, nearly as often as from the stalk 
where it had grown. I made havoc also with the 
branches, loaded with the yet unbroken bolls, the 
long, cumbersome sack swinging from side to side in 
a manner not allowable in the cotton field. After a 
most laborious day I arrived at the gin-house with my 
/Toad. When the scale determined its weight to be 
/ only ninety -five pounds, not half the quantity required 
of the poorest picker, Epps threatened the severest 
\ flogging, but in consideration of my being a " raw 
\ hand," concluded to pardon me on that occasion 
The following day, and many days succeeding, I re 
turned at night with no better success I was evi- 



LASHES GRADUATED. 179 

dently not designed for that kind of labor. I had not 
the gift the dexterous fingers and ^iiick motion of 
Patsey, who could fly along one side of a row of cot 
ton, stripping it of its undefiled and fleecy whiteness 
miraculously fast. Practice and whipping were alike 
unavailing, and Epps, satisfied of it at last, swore 1 was 
a disgrace that I was not fit to associate with a cot 
ton-picking "nigger" that I could not pick enough 
in a day to pay the trouble of weighing it, and that Ij 
should go into the cotton field no more. I was nowi 
employed in cutting and hauling wood, drawing cot- j 
ton from the field to the gin-house, and performed i 
whatever other service was required. Suffice to say,/ 
I was never permitted to be idle. 

It was rarely that a day passed by without one or 
more whippings. This occurred at the time the cot>_ 
ton was weighed. The delinquent, whose weight had 
fallen short, was taken out, stripped, made to lie upon 
the ground, face downwards, when he received a pun 
ishment proportioned to his offence. It is the literal, 
unvarnished truth, that the crack of the lash, and 
the shrieking of the slaves, can be heard from dark 
till bed time, on Epps plantation, any day almost 
during the entire period of the cotton-picking season. 

The number of lashes is graduated according to tlie~~ 
nature of the case. Tw r enty-five are deemed a mere 
brush, inflicted, for instance, when a dry leaf or piece 
<>f boll is found in the cotton, or when a branch is 
broken in the field ; fifty is the ordinary penalty fol- 
.owing all delinquencies of the next higher grade ; one 



180 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

hundred is called severe : it is the punishment inflict 
ed for the serious offence of standing idle in the field ; 
from one hundred and fifty to two hundred is bestow 
ed upon him who quarrels with his cabin-mates, and 
live hundred, well laid on, besides the mangling of 
the dogs, perhaps, is certain to consign the poor, un- 
pitied runaway to weeks of pain and agony. 

During the two years Epps remained on the plan 
tation at >ayou Huff Power, he was in the habit, as 
often as once in a fortnight at least, of corning home 
intoxicated from Holmesville. The shooting-matches 
almost invariably concluded with a debauch. At such 
times he was boisterous and half-crazy. Often he 
would break the dishes, chairs, and whatever furni 
ture he could lay his hands on. When satisfied with 
his amusement in the house, he would seize the whip 
and walk forth into the yard. Then it behooved the 
slaves to be watchful and exceeding wary. The first 
one who came within reach felt the smart of his lash. 
Sometimes for hours he would keep them running in 
all directions, dodging around the corners of the cab 
ins. Occasionally he would come upon one unawares, 
and if he succeeded in inflicting a fair, round blow, it 
was a feat that much delighted him. The younger 
children, and the aged, who had become inactive, 
Buffered then. In the midst of the confusiou he would 
elily take his stand behind a cabin, waiting with rais 
ed whip, to dash it into the first black face that peep 
ed cautiously around the corner. 

At other times he would come home in a less brutal 



EPPS IN A DANCING MOOD. 181 

humor. Then there must be a merry-making. Ther 
all must move to the measure of a tune. Then Mas 
ter Epps must needs regale his melodious ears with 
the music of a fiddle. Then did he become buoyant, 
elastic, gaily " tripping the light fantastic toe" around 
the piazza and all through the house. 

Tibeats, at the time of my sale, had informed 
him I could play on the violin. He had receiv 
ed his information from Ford. Through the im 
portunities of Mistress Epps, her husband had been in 
duced to purchase me one during a visit to New-Or 
\ leans. Frequently I was called into the house to play 
before the family, mistress being passionately fond of 
music. 

All of us would be assembled in the large room of 
the great house, whenever Epps came home in one of 
his dancing moods. No matter how worn out and 
tired we were, there must be a general dance. When 
. properly stationed on the floor, I would strike up a tune, 
j^" Dance, you d d niggers, dance," Epps would 
shout. 

/^Then there must be no halting or delay, no slow or 
languid movements; all must be brisk, and lively, 
and alert. " Up and down, heel and toe, and away 
we go," was the order of the hour. Epps portly form 
mingled with those of his dusky slaves, moving rap 
idly through all the mazes of the dance. 

Usually his whip was in his hand, ready to fall 
about the ears of the presumptuous thrall, who dared 
to rest a moment, or even stop to catch his breath. 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 



~ \ a 



When he was himself exhausted, there would be a 
brief cessation, but it would be very brief. With a 
slash, and crack, and flourish of the whip, he would 
shout again, " Dance, niggers, dance," and away they 
would go once more, pell-mell, while I, spurred by an 
occasional sharp touch of the lash, sat in a corner, ex 
tracting from my violin a marvelous quick-stepping 
tune. The mistress often upbraided him, declaring 
she would return to her father s house at Cheney ville ; 
nevertheless, there were times she could not restrain 
a burst of laughter, on witnessing his uproarious 
^Apranks. Frequently, we were thus detained until al- 

/most morning. Bent with excessive toil actually 
A / suffering for a little refreshing rest, and feeling rather 
/ as if we could cast ourselves upon the earth and weep, 
many a night in the house of Edwin Epps have his 
unhappy slaves been made to dance and laugh. 
\ Notwithstanding these deprivations in order to grat 
ify the whim of an unreasonable master, we had to 
be in the field as soon as it was light, and during the 
day perform the ordinary and accustomed task. Such 

^deprivations could not be urged at the scales in exten 
uation of any lack of weight, or in the cornfield for 
not hoeing with the usual rapidity. The whippings 
were just as severe as if we ^d gone forth in the 
morning, strengthened and invigorated by a night s 
repose. Indeed, after such frantic revels, he was 
always more sour and savage than before, punishing 
for slighter causes, and using the whip with increased 
and more vindictive energy. 



CHARACTER OF EPPS. 183 

Ten years I toiled for that man without reward 
^[en years of my incessant labor has contributed to 
increase the bulk of his possessions^ Ten years I was 
compelled to address him w r ith down-cast eyes and 
uncovered head in the attitude and language of a 
slave. I am indebted to him for nothing, save i 
served abuse and stripes. 

Beyond the reach of his inhuman thong, and stand 
ing on the soil of the free State w r here I was born, 
thanks be to Heaven, I can raise my head once more 
among men. I can speak of the wrongs I have suf 
fered, and of those who inflicted them, with upraised 
eyes. But I have no desire to speak of him or any 
other one otherwise than truthfully. Yet to speak 
truthfully of Edwin Epps would be to say he is a 
man in whose heart the quality of kindness or of JUST 
tice is not found. A rough, rude energy, united witli] 
an uncultivated mind and an avaricious spirit, are his/ 
prominent characteristics. Hejs_know y n as a " nigge 
breaker," distinguished for his faculty of subduing the 
spirit of the slave, and priding himself upon his repu 
tation in this respect, as a jockey boasts of his skill in 
managing a refractory horse. He looked upon a col 
ored man, not as a human being, responsible to his Crea 
tor for the small talent entrusted to him, but as a " chat 
tel personal," as mere live property, no better, except 
in value, than his mule or dog. When the evidence, 
clear and indisputable, was laid before him that I was 
a free man, and as much entitled to my liberty as he 
when, on the day I left, he was informed that I 



L84 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

had a wife and children, as dear to me as his 
babes to him, he only raved and swore, denouncing 
the law that tore me from him, and declaring he 
would find out the man who had forwarded the letter 
that disclosed the place of my captivity, if there was 
any virtue or power in money, and would take his 
life. He thought of nothing but his loss, and cursed 
me for having been born free. He could have stood 
unmoved and seen the tongues of his poor slaves 
torn out by the roots he could have seen them 
burned to ashes over a slow fire, or gnawed to death 
by dogs, if it only brought him profit. Such a hard, 
cruel, unjust man is Edwin Epps. 

There w^as but one greater savage on Bayou Boeuf 
than he. Jim Burns plantation w r as cultivated, as 
already mentioned, exclusively by women. That 
barbarian kept their backs so sore and raw, that they 
could not perform the customary labor demanded 
daily of the slave. He boasted of his cruelty, and 
through all the country round was accounted a more 
thorough-going, energetic man than even Epps. A 
brute himself, Jim Burns had not a particle of mercy 
for his subject brutes, and like a fool, whipped and 
scourged away the very strength upon which depend 
ed his amount of gain. 

Epps remained on Huff Power two years, when, 
having accumulated a considerable sum of money, he 
expended it in the purchase of the plantation on the 
east bank of Bayou Boeuf, where he still continues to 
reside He took possession of it in 184-5, after the 






UNCLE AUK AM, WiLEY, &G 185 

holidays were passed. He carried thither with him 
nine slaves, all of whom, except myself, and Susan, 
who has since died, remain there yet. lie made no 
addition to this force, and for eight years the follow 
ing were my companions in his quarters, viz : Abraiu, 
Wiley, Phebe, Bob, Henry, Edward, and Patsey. 
All these, except Edward, born since, were purchased 
out of a drove by Epps during the time he was over 
seer for Archy B. Williams, whose plantation is situa 
ted on the shore of Red River, not far from Alexan 
dria. 

Abram was tall, standing a full head above any 
common man. He is sixty years of age, and was 
born in Tennessee. Twenty years ago, he was pur 
chased by a trader, carried into South Carolina, and 
sold to James Buford, of Williamsburgh county, in 
that State. In his youth he was renowned for his 
great strength, but age and unremitting toil have 
somewhat shattered his powerful frame and enfeebled 
his mental faculties. 

Wiley is forty-eight. He was born on the estate 
of William Tassle, and for many years took charge of 
that gentleman s ferry over the Big Black River, in 
South Carolina. 

Phebe was a slave of Buford, Tassle s neighbor, 
and having married Wiley, he bought the latter, at 
her instigation. Buford was a kind master, sheriff of 
the county, and in those days a man of wealth. 

Bob aiid Henry are Phebe s children, by a former 
husband, their father having been abandoned to give 



186 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

place to Wile v. That seductive youth had insinuated 
himself into Phebe s affections, and therefore the 
faithless spouse had gently kicked her first husband 
out of her cabin door. Edward had been born to 
them on Bayou Huff Power. 

Patsey is twenty-three also from Buford splanta 
tion. She is in no wise connected with the others, 
but glories in the fact that she is the offspring of a 
" Guinea nigger," brought over to Cuba in a slave 
ship, and in the course of trade transferred to Buford, 
who was her mother s owner. 

This, as I learned from them, is a genealogical account 
of my master s slaves. For years they had been to 
gether. Often they recalled the memories of other 
days, and sighed to retrace their steps to the old home 
in Carolina. Troubles came upon their master Bu 
ford, which brought far greater troubles upon them. 
He became involved in debt, and unable to bear up 
against his failing fortunes, was compelled to sell these, 
and others of his slaves. In a chain gang they had 
been driven from beyond the Mississippi to the plan 
tation of Archy B. "Williams. Edwin Epps, who, for a 
long while had been his driver and overseer, was 
about establishing himself in business on his own ac 
count, at the time of their arrival, and accepted them 
in payment of Jiis wages. 

Old Abram was a kind-hearted being a sort of 
patriarch among us, fond of entertaining his younger 
brethren with grave and serious discourse. He was 
deeply versed in such philosophy as is taught in the 



TJNCLE ABRAM AND AUNT THESE 187 

cabin of the slave ; but the great absorbing hobby of 
Uncle Abrain was General Jackson, whom his young 
master in Tennessee had followed to the wars. He 
loved to wander back, in imagination, to the place 
where he was born, and to recount the scenes of his 
outh during those stirring times when the nation was 
in arms. He had been athletic, and more keen and 
powerful than the generality of his race, but now his 
eye had become dim, and his natural force abated. 
Very ofteiij indeed, while discussing the best method 
of baking the hoe-cake, or expatiating at large upon 
the glory of Jackson, he would forget where he left 
his hat, or his hoe, or his basket ; and then would the 
old man be laughed at, if Epps was absent, and whip 
ped if he was present. So was he perplexed continu 
ally, and sighed to think that he was growing aged 
and going to decay. Philosophy and Jackson and 
forgetfulness had played the mischief with him, and 
it was evident that all of them combined were fast 
bringing down the gray hairs of Uncle Abram to the 
grave. 

Aunt Phebe had been an excellent field hand, but 
latterly was put into the kitchen, where she remained, 
except occasionally, in a time of uncommon hurry. 
She was a sly old creature, and when not in the 
presence of her mistress or her master, was garrulous 
in the extreme. 

Wiley, on the contrary, was silent. He performed 
his task without murmur or complaint, seldom in 
dulging in the luxury of speech, except to utter a 



188 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

wish that he was away from Epps, and back once 
more in South Carolina. 

Bob and Henry had reached the ages of twenty 
and twenty-three, and were distinguished for not! ting 
extraordinary or unusual, while Edward, a lad of 
thirteen, not yet able to maintain his row in the corn 
or the cotton field, was kept in the great house, to 
wait on the little Eppses. 

Patsey _was slim and straight. She stood erect as 
the human form is capable of standing. There was 
an air of loftiness in her movement, that neither labor, 
nor weariness, nor punishment could destroy. Truly, 
Patsey was a splendid animal, and were it not that 
bondage had enshrouded her intellect in utter and 
everlasting darkness, would have been chief among 
ten thousand of her people. She could leap the 
highest fences, and a fleet hound it was indeed, that 
could outstrip her in a race. No horse could fling her 
from his back. She was a skillful teamster. She 
turned as true a furrow as the best, and at splitting 
rails there were none who could excel her. "When 
the order to halt was heard at night, she would have 
her mules at the crib, unharnessed, fed and curried, 
before uncle Abram had found his hat. Not, how 
ever, for all or any of these, was she chiefly famous. 
Such lightning-like motion was in her fingers as no 
other fingers ever possessed, and therefore it was, that 
in cotton picking time, Patsey was queen of the field. 

She had a genial and pleasant temper, and was 
faithful and obedient. Naturally, she was a joyous 



TREATMENT OF PATSEY. 189 

creature, a laughing, light-hearted girl, rejoicing iii 
the mere sense of existence. Yet Patsey wept oftener, 
and suffered more, than any of her companions. 
-rhe-had~ been literally excoriated. Her back 
the scars of a thousand stripes ; not because she 
backward in her work, nor because she was of an un 
mindful and rebellious spirit, but because it had failed 
:o her lot to be the slave of a licentious master and a 
jealous mistress. She shrank before the lustful eye ofl 
the one, and was in danger even of her life at the 
hands of the other, and between the two, she was; 
indeed accursed. In the great house, for days together, 
there were high and angry words, poutings and 
estrangement, whereof she was the innocent cause. 
Nothing delighted the mistress so much as to see her 
suffer, and more than once, when Eppsjiad refused to 
seTTTTer, has she tempted me with bribes to put her 
js^cretlytodeath^ and bury her body in some lonely 
place in the margin of the swamp. Gladly would 
Patsey have appeased this unforgiving spirit, if it had 
been in her power, but not like Joseph, dared she >, 
escape from Master Epps, leaving her garment in his 
hand. Patsey walked under a cloud. ?f she uttered \r~ 
a word in opposition to her master s will, the lash was )_ 
resorted to at once, to bring her to subjection ; if she 
was not watchful when about her cabin, or when j 
walking in the yard, a billet of wood, or a broken i 
bottle perhaps, hurled from her mistress hand, would/ 
Bmite her unexpectedly in the face. The enslaved vie j 
tim of lust and hate, Patsey had no comfort of her li fe.; 



190 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

hese were ray companions and fellow-slaves, with 
whom I was accustomed to be driven to the field, and 
with whom it has been my lot to dwell for ten years 
in the log cabins of Edwin Epps. They, if living, are 
yet toiling on the banks of Bayou Boeuf, never des- 
*tined to breathe, as I now do, the blessed air of liberty, 
nor to shake off the heavy shackles that enthrall 
them, until they shall lie d*vn forever in the dust 



CHAPTER XIV 

8KSTRUCTION OF THE COTTON CROP IN 1845 DEMAND FOE LABORERS IN 
ST. MARY S PARISH SENT THITHER IN A DROVE THE ORDER OF THE 

MARCH THE GRAND COTEAU HIRED TO JUDGE TURNER ON BAYOU 

SALLE APPOINTED DRIVER IN HIS SUGAR HOUSE SUNDAY SERVICES 

SLAVE FURNITURE, HOW OBTAINED THE PARTY AT YARNEY s IN CEN- 

TREVILLE GOOD FORTUNE THE CAPTAIN OF THE STEAMER HIS RE 
FUSAL TO SECRETE ME RETURN TO BAYOU BCEUF SIGHT OF TIBEATS 

PATSEY S SORROWS TUMULT AND CONTENTION HUNTING THE COON 

AND OPOSSUM THE CUNNING OF THE LATTER THE LEAN CONDITION 

OF THE SLAVE DESCRIPTION OF THE FISH TRAP THE MURDER OF THE 

MAN FROM NATCHEZ EPPS CHALLENGED BY MARSHALL THE INFLUENCE 

OF SLAVERY THE LOVE OF FREEDOM. 

THE first year of Epps residence on the bayou, 
1845, the caterpillars almost totally destroyed the 
cotton crop throughout that region. There was little 
| to be done, so that the slaves were necessarily idle 
t_half the time. However, there came a rumor to I3a- 
you Bceuf that wages were high, and laborers in great 
demand on the sugar plantations in St. Mary s parish. 
This parish is situated on the coast of the Gulf of 
Mexico, about one hundred and forty miles from 
Avoyelles. The Eio Teche, a considerable stream, 
flows through St. Mary s to the gulf. 



192 TWELVE YEAE8 A SLAVE. 

r^~ . 

) It was determined by the planters, on the receipt 
/of this intelligence, to make up a drove of slaves to 
/ be sent down to Tuckapaw in St. Mary s, for the pur- 
/ pose of hiring them out in the cane fields. Accord 
ingly, in the month of September, there were one 
hundred and forty-seven collected at Holmesville, 
Abram, Bob and myself among the number. Of these 
^bout one-half were women. Epps, Alonson Pierce, 
Henry Toler, and Addison Roberts, w T ere the white 
men, selected to accompany, and take charge of the 
drove. They had a two-horse carriage and two sad 
dle horses for their use. A large wagon, drawn by 
four horses, and driven by John, a boy belonging to 
Mr. Roberts, carried the blankets and provisions. 

About 2 o clock in the afternoon, having been fed, 
preparations were made to depart. The duty assign 
ed me was, to take charge of the blankets and pro 
visions, and see that none were lost by the way. The 
carriage proceeded in advance, the wagon following 
behind this the slaves were arranged, while the two 

O 

horsemen brought up the rear, and in this order th^ 
procession moved out of Holmesville. 

That night we reached a Mr. McCrow s plantation, 
a distance of ten or fifteen miles, when sve were or 
dered to halt. Large fires were built, and each one 
spreading nis blanket on the ground, laid down upon 
it. The white men lodged in the great house. An 
hour before day we were aroused by the drivers coin 
ing among us, cracking their whips and ordering ua 
to arise. Then the blankets were rolled up, and be- 



193 

in^ rtsverally delivered to me and deposited iu the 
wagon, tli.e procession set forth again. ^ \ 

The following, night it rained violently. We were 
all drenched, onr clothes saturated with mud and wa 
ter. Reaching an open shed, formerly a gin-house, w e 
found beneath it such shelter as it afforded. There 
was not room for all of us to lay down. There w,, 
remained, huddled together, through the night, con 
tinuing our march, as usual, in the morning. During 
the journey we were fed twice a day, boiling "oTTf 
bacon and baking our corn-cake at the fires in the 
same manner as in our huts. We passed through La 
fayetteville, Mountsville, New-Town, to Centreville, 
where Bob and Uncle Abram were hired. Our num 
ber decreased as we advanced nearly every sugai 
plantation requiring the services of one or more. 

On our routf. we passed the Grand Coteau or prairie, 
a vast space of level, monotonous country, without a 
tree, except an occasional one which had been trans 
planted near some dilapidated dwelling. It was once 
thickly populated, and under cultivation, but for some 
cause had been abandoned. The business of the 
scattered inhabitants that now dwell upon it is prin 
cipally raising cattle. Immense herds were feeding 
upon it as we passed. In the centre of the Grand 
Coteau one feels as if he were on the ocean, out 
of sight of land. As far as the eye can see, in all 
directions, it is but a ruined and deserted waste. 

I was hired to Judge Turner, a distinguished man 

and extensive planter, whose large estate is situated 
I is 



194 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

on Bayou Salle, within a few miles of the gulf. Bay 
ou Salle is a small stream flowing into the bay of 
Atchafalaya. For some days I was employed at 
Turner s in repairing his sugar house, when a cane 
knife was put into my hand, and with thirty or 
fcrty others, I was sent into the field. I found no 
such difficulty in learning the art of cutting cane 
that I had in picking cotton. It came to me natural 
ly and intuitively, and in a short time I was able to 
keep up with the fastest knife. Before the cutting 
was over, however, Judge Tanner transferred me from 
the field to the sugar house, to act there in the ca 
pacity of driver. From the time of the commence^, I 
ment of sugar making to the close, the grinding and , 
boiling does not cease day or night. The whip was> 
given me with directions to use it upon any one who \ 
was cauglirstanding idle. If I failed "to^oBey^fKejn \ 
to the letter, there was another one for my own back. 
In addition to this my duty was to call on "and off the 
different gangs at the proper time. I had no regular 
periods of rest, and could never snatch but a few mo 
ments of sleep at a time. 

N It is the custom in Louisiana, as I presume it is in 
other slave States, to allow the slave to retain what 
ever compensation he may obtain for services per 
formed on Sundays. In this way, only, are they able 
to provide themselves with any luxury or conveni 
ence whatever. When a slave, purchased, or kidnap 
ped in the North, is transported to a cabin on Bayou 
Boeuf, he is furnished with neither knife, nor fork 



8UNDAY SERVICES. J b 

n ir dish, nor kettle, nor any other thing in the shape 
of crockery, or furniture of any nature or description. 
He is furnished with a blanket before he reaches 
there, and wrapping that around him, he can either 
stand up, or lie down upon the ground, or on a board, 
if his master has no use for it. He is at liberty to 
find a gourd in which to keep his meal, or he can eat 
his corn from the cob, just as he pleases. To ask the 
master for a knife, or skillet, or any small convenience 
of the kind, would be answered with a kick, or laugh 
ed at as a joke. Whatever necessary article of this 
nature is found in a cabin has been purchased with 
Sunday money. However injurious to the morals, 
it is certainly a blessing to the physical condition of 
the slave, to be permitted to break the Sabbath. 
Otherwise there would be no way to provide him 
self with any utensils, which seem to be indispensa 
ble to him who is compelled to be his own cook. 
^On cane plantations in sugar time, there is no dis 
tinction as to the days of the week. It is well un 
derstood that all hands must labor on the Sabbath, 
I and it is equally well understood that those especial- 
I ly who are hired, as I was to Judge Turner, and oth- 
i ers in succeeding years, shall receive remuneration 
\for it. It is usual, also, in the most hurrying time of 
cotton-picking, to require the same extra service 
From this source, slaves generally are afforded an 
opportunity of earning sufficient to purchase a knife 
a kettle, tobacco and so forth. The females, discard 
ing the latter luxury, are apt to expend their little 



196 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

revenue in the purchase of gaudy ribbons, wherewithal 
to deck their hair in the merry season of the holidays. 

1 remained in St. Mary s until the first of January, 
during which time my Sunday money amounted to 
ten dollars. I met with other good fortune, for which 
I was indebted to my violin, my^constant companion^ 
the source of profit, and soother of my sorrows during 
years of servitude. There was a grand party of 
whites assembled at Mr. Yarney s, in Centre vi lie, a 
hamlet in the vicinity of Turner s plantation. I was 
employed to play for them, and so well pleased were 
the merry-makers with my performance, that a con 
tribution was taken for my benefit, which amounted 
to seventeen dollars. 

With this sum in possession, I was looked upon by 
my fellows as a millionaire. It afforded me great 
pleasure to look at it to count it over and over 
again, day after day. Visions of cabin furniture, of 
water pails, of pocket knives, new shoes and coats 
and hats, floated through my fancy, and up through 
all rose the triumphant contemplation, that I was 
the wealthiest " nigger" on Bayou Bosuf. 

Vessels run up the Rio Teche to Centre ville. 
While there, I was bold enough one day to present 
myself before the captain of a steamer, and beg per 
mission to hide myself among the freight. I was 
emboldened to risk the hazard of such a step, from 
overhearing a conversation, in the course of which 1 
ascertained he was a native of the North. I did nut 
relate to him the particulars of my history, but only 



T- 



RETURN TO BAYOU IUKUF. 197 

expressed an ardent desire to escape from slavery ft* 
a free State. He pitied me, but said it would be im \ 
possible to avoid the vigilant custom house officers in 1 
New-Orleans, and that detection would subject him \ 
to punishment, and his vessel to confiscation. My \ 
earnest entreaties evidently excited his sympathies, 
and doubtless he would have yielded to them, could 
he have done so with any kind of safety. I was 
compelled to smother the sudden flame that lighted 
up my bosom with sweet hopes of liberation, and 
turn my steps once more towards the increasing/ 
darkness of despair. 

Immediately after this event the drove assembled 
at Centreville, and several of the owners having ar 
rived and collected the monies due for our services, 
we were driven back to Bayou Boeuf. It was on our 
return, while passing through a small village, that I 
caught sight of Tibeats, seated in the door of a dirty 
grocery, looking somewhat seedy and out of repair. 
Passion and poor whisky, I doubt not, have ere this 
laid him on the shelf. 

During our absence, I learned from Aunt Phebe 
and Patsey, that the latter had been getting deeper 
and deeper into trouble. The poor girl was truly an 
object of pity. " Old liogjaw," the name by which 
Epps was called, when the slaves were by themselves, 
had beaten her more severely and frequently than 
ever. As surely as he came from Holmesville, elated 
with liquor and it was often in those days -he 
would whip her, merely to gratify the mistress ; would 



198 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

wunish her to an extent almost beyond endurance, foi 
/an offence of which he himself was the sole and irre- 
I sistible cause. In his sober moments he could not al- 
\ ways be prevailed upon to indulge his wife s insatia 
ble thirst for vengeance. 

To be rid of Patsey to place her beyond sight or 
JQ I reach, by sale, or death, or in any other manner, of 
/ late years, seemed to be the ruling thought and pas 
sion of my mistress. Patsey had been a favorite when 
a child, even in the great house. She had been pet 
ted and admired for her uncommon sprightliness and 
pleasant disposition. She had been fed many a time, 
so Uncle Abram said, even on biscuit and milk, when 
the madam, in her younger days, was wont to call 
her to the piazza, and fondle her as she would a play- 
i ful kitten. But a sad change had come over the spirit 
of the woman. Now, only black and angry fiends 
ministered in the temple of her heart, until she could 
look on Patsey but with concentrated venom. 

Mistress Epps was not naturally such an evil wo 
man, after all. She was possessed of the devil, jeal 
ousy, it is true, but aside from that, there was much 
in her character to admire. Her father, Mr. Koberts, 
resided in Cheneyville, an influential and honorable 
man, and as much respected throughout the parish 
as any other citizen. She had been well educated at 
some institution this side the Mississippi ; was beauti 
ful, accomplished, and usually good-humored. She 
was kind to all of us but Patsey frequently, in the 
ibsence of her husband, sending out to us some little 



199 

dainty from her own table. In other situations in 
a different society from that which exists on the shores 
of Bayou Bceuf, she would have been pronounced an 
elegant and fascinating woman. An ill wind it was 
that blew her into the arms of Epps. 

lie respected and loved his wife as much as a coarse 
nature like his is capable of loving, but supreme sel 
fishness always overmastered conjugal affection. 

"He loved as well as baser natures can, 

But a mean heart and soul were in that man." 

He was ready to gratify any whim to grant any re 
quest she made, provided it did not cost too much. 
Patsey was equal to any two of his slaves in the cot 
ton field. He could not replace her with the same 
money she would bring. The idea of disposing of 
her, therefore, could not be entertained. The mistress 
did not regard her at all in that light. The pride of 
the haughty w^oman was aroused ; the blood of the 
fiery southern boiled at the sight of Patsey, and noth 
ing less than trampling out the r ie of the helpless 
bondwoman would satisfy her. 

Sometimes the current of her wrath turned upon 
him whom she had jus.t cause to hate. But the storm 
of angry words would pass over at length, and there 
would be a season of calm again. At such times Patr 
sey trembled with fear, and cried as if her heart would \ 
break, for she knew from painful experience, that if \ 
mistress should work herself to the red-hot pitch of j 
1-age, Epps would quiet her at last with a promise that// 
Patsey shouV] bo flogged a promise he was sure tc 



200 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

keep. Thus did pride, and jealousy, and vengeance 
war with avarice and brute-passion in the mansion of 
my master, filling it with daily tumult and conten 
tion. Thus, upon the head of Patsey the simple- 
minded slave, in whose heart God had implanted the 
seeds of virtue the force of all these domestic tern 
pests spent itself at last. 

During the summer succeeding my return from St 
Mary s parish, I conceived a plan of providing myself 
with food, which, though simple, succeeded beyond 
expectation. It has been followed by many others 
in my condition, up and down the bayou, and of such 
benefit has it become that I am almost persuaded to 
.ook upon myself as a benefactor. That summer the 
worms got into the bacon. Nothing but ravenous 
hunger could induce us to swallow it. The weekly 
allowance of meal scarcely sufficed to satisfy us. It- 
was customary with us, as it is with all in that region, 
rhere the allowance is exhausted before Saturday 
night, or is in such a state as to render it nauseous 
and disgusting, to hunt in the swamps for coon and 
opossum. This, ho vever, must be done at night, af 
ter the day s work is accomplished. There are plan 
ters whose slaves, for months at a time, have no other 
meat than such as is obtained in this manner. No 
objections are made to hunting, inasmuch as it dis 
penses with drafts upon the smoke-house, and because 
every marauding coon that is killed is so much saved 
from the standing corn. They are hunted with dogs 
and clubs, slaves not being allowed the use of fire-arms 



HUNTING THE COON ANT) OPOSSUM. 20} 

The flesh of the coon is palatable, but verily there 
is nothing in all butcherdom so delicious as a roasted 
possum. They are a round, rather long-bodied, little 
animal, of a whitish color, with nose like a pig, and 
caudal extremity like a rat. They burrow among 
the roots and hi the hollows of the gum tree, and are 
clumsy and slow of motion. They are deceitful and 
cunning creatures. On receiving the slightest tap of 
a stick, they will roll over on the ground and feign 
death. If the hunter leaves him, in pursuit of anoth 
er, without first taking particular pains to break his 
neck, the chances are, on his return, he is not_lnjbe 
found. The lk:le animal has out witted the enemyK 
has "playe .l possum" - and is off. But after a! ) 
long and hard day s work, the weary slave feels little 
like going to the swamp for his supper, and half the 
time prefers throwing himself on the cabin floor with 
out it. It is for the interest of the master that the sen 
rant should not suffer in health from starvation, and 
it is also for his interest that he should not become gross 
from over-feeding. In the estimation of the owner, r 
slave is the most serviceable when in rather a lean 
and lank condition, such a condition as the race-horse 
is in, when fitted for the course, and in that condition 
Ihey are generally to be found on the sugar and cot- 
\on plantations along Eed River. 

My cabin was within a few rods of the bayou bank, 
and necessity being indeed the mother of invention, I 
resolved upon a mode of obtaining the requisite 
amount of food, without the trouble of resorting night- 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE 

LV to the woods. This was to construct a fish trap. 
Having, in my mind, conceived the manner in which 
it could be done, the next Sunday I set about putting 
it into practical execution. It may be impossible for 
me to convey to the reader a full and correct idea of 
its construction, but the following will serve as a gen 
eral description : 

A frame between two and three feet square is made, 
and of a greater or less height, according to the 
depth of water. Boards or slats are nailed on three 
sides of this frame, not so closely, however, as to pre 
vent the water circulating freely through it. A door 
is fitted into the fourth side, in such manner that it 
will slide easily up and down in the grooves cut in 
the two posts. A movable bottom is then so fitted 
that it can be raised to the top of the frame without 
difficulty. In the centre of the movable bottom an 
auger hole is bored, and into this one end of a handle 
or round stick is fastened on the under side so loosely 
that it will turn. The handle ascends from the centre 
of the movable bottom to the top of the frame, or as 
much higher as is desirable. Up and down this 
handle, in a great many places, are gimlet holes, 
through which small sticks are inserted, extending to 
opposite sides of the frame. So many of these small 
sticks are running out from the handle in all direc 
tions, that a fish of any considerable dimensions can 
not pass through without hitting one of them. The 
frame is then placed in the water and made sta 
f onary. 



DESCRIPTION OF THE FISH TRAP. 203 

The trap is " set" by sliding or drawing up tlie door, 
and kept in that position by another stick, one end 
of which rests in a notch on the inner side, the other 
end in a notch made in the handle, running up from 
the centre of the movable bottom. The trap is 
baited by rolling a handful of wet meal and cotton 
together until it becomes hard, and depositing it in 
the back part of the frame. A fish swimming through 
the upraised door towards the bait, necessarily strikes 
one of the small sticks turning the handle, which dis 
placing the stick supporting the door, the latter falls, 
securing the fish within the frame. Taking hold of 
the top of the handle, the movable bottom is then 
drawn up to the surface of the water, and the fish 
taken out. There may have been other such traps in 
use before mine was constructed, but if there were 
I had never happened to see one. Bayou Boeuf 
abounds in fish of large size and excellent quality, 
and after this time I was very rarely in want of one 
for myself, or for my comrades. Thus a mine was 
opened a new resource was developed, hitherto un- 
thought of by the enslaved children of Africa, who 
toil and hunger along the shores of that sluggish, but 
prolific stream. 

About the time of which I am now writing, an 
event occurred in our immediate neighborhood, which 
made a deep impression upon me, and which, shows 
he state of society existing there, and the manner in 
which affronts are oftentimes avenged. Directly op 
posite our quarters, on the other side of the bayou, 



204 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

was situated the plantation of Mr. Marshall. lie 
belonged to a family among the most wealthy and 
aristocratic in the country. A gentleman from the 
vicinity of Natchez had been negotiating with him 
for the purchase of the estate. One day a messenger 
came in great haste to our plantation, saying that a 
bloody and fearful battle was going on at Mar 
shall s that blood had been spilled and unless 
the combatants were forthwith separated, the result 
would be disastrous. 

On repairing to Marshall s house, a scene presented 
itself that beggars description. On the floor of one 
of the rooms lay the ghastly corpse of the man iron: 
Natchez, while Marshall, enraged and covered with 
wounds and blood, was stalking back and forth, 
" breathing out threatenings and slaughter." A diffi 
culty had arisen in the course of their negotiation, 
high words ensued, when drawing their weapons, the 
deadly strife began that ended so unfortunately. 
Marshall was never placed in confinement. A sort of 
trial or investigation was had at Marksville, when he 
was acquitted, and returned to his plantation, rather 
more respected, as I thqught, than ever, from the fact 
that the blood of a fellow being was on his soul. 

Epps interested himself in his behalf, accompany 
ing him to Marksville, and on all occasions loudly 
justifying him, but his services in this respect did not 
afterwards deter a kinsman of this same Marshall 
from seeking his life also. A brawl occurred between 
hern over a gambling-table, which terminated in a 



EPPS CHALLENGED. 205 

deadly feud. Riding up on horseback in front of the 
house one day, armed with pistols and bowie knife, 
Marshall challenged him to come forth and make a 
final settlement of the quarrel, or he would brand 
him as a coward, and shoot him like a dog the first 
opportunity. Not through cowardice, nor from any 
conscientious scruples, in my opinion, but through the 
influence of his wife, he was restrained from accept 
ing the challenge of his enemy. A reconciliation, 
however, was effected afterward, since which time 
they have been on terms of the closest intimacy. 

Such occurrences, which would bring upon the 
parties concerned in them merited and condign pun 
ishment in the Northern States, are frequent on the 
bayou, and pass without notice, and almost without 
comment. Every man carries his bowie knife, and 
when two fall out, they set to work hacking and 
thrusting at each other, more like savages than civ 
ilized and enlightened beings. 

ie existence of Slavery in its most cruel form 
among them has a tendency to brutalize the humane 
and finer feelings of their nature. Daily witnesses of 
human suffering listening to the agonizing screeches 
of the slave beholding him writhing beneath the 
merciless lash bitten and torn by dogs dying 
without attention, and buried without shroud or 
coffin it cannot otherwise be expected, than thai 
they should become brutified and reckless of human 
life. It is true there are many kind-hearted and good 
men in the parish of Avoyelles such men as "Wil 



206 TWELVE YEARS A SLATE. 

liarn Ford who can look with pity upon the suffer 
ings of a slave, just as there are, over all the world, 
sensitive and sympathetic spirits, who cannot look 
with indifference upon the sufferings of any creature 
which the Almighty has endowed with life. It is 
not the fault of the slaveholder that he is cruel, so 
much as it is the fault of the system under which he 
lives. He cannot withstand the influence of habit 
and associations that surround him* Taught froiw 
earliest childhood, by all that he sees and hears, that 
the rod is for the slave s back, he will not be apt ta 
change his opinions in maturer years. 

There may be humane masters, as there certainly 
are inhuman ones there may be slaves well-clothed, 
well-fed, and happy, as there surely are those half- 
clad, half-starved and miserable ; nevertheless, the 
institution that tolerates such wTong and inhumanity 
as I have witnessed, is a cruel, unjust, and barbarous 
one. Men may write fictions portraying lowly life as 
it is, or as it is not may expatiate with owlish 
gravity upon the bliss of ignorance discourse nip- 
v pantly from arm chairs of the pleasures of slave life ; 
TlDut let them toil with him in the field sleep with 
/ him in the cabin feed with him on husks ; let them 
behold him scourged, hunted, trampled on, and the T 
will come back with another story in their mouths. 
Let them know the heart of the poor slave learn 
his secret thoughts thoughts he dare not utter in 
the hearing of the white man ; let them sit by him 
in the silent watches of the night converse with 



THE LOVE OF FREEDOM. 207 

trim in trustful confidence, of " life, liberty, and the 
pursuit of happiness," and they ^ill find that ninety- 
nine out of every hundred are intelligent enough to 
understand their situation, and to cherish in their 
bosoms the love of freedom, as passionately as thorn- 
sol ves. 



CHAPTER XV 

LABORS ON SUGAR PLANTATIONS THE MODE OF PLANTING CANE OF HOEING 

CANE CANE RICKS CUTTING CANE DESCRIPTION OF THE CANE KNIFE 

WINROWING PREPARING FOR SUCCEEDING CROPS DESCRIPTION OF 

HAWKINS SUGAR MILL ON BAYOU BCEUF THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS 
THE CARNIVAL SEASON OF THE CHILDREN OF BONDAGE THE CHRISTMAS 

SUPPER RED, THE FAVORITE COLOR THE VIOLIN, AND THE CONSOLATION 

IT AFFORDED THE CHRISTMAS DANCE LIVELY, THE COQUETTE SAM 

ROBERTS, AND HIS RIVALS SLAVE SONGS SOUTHERN LIEE AS IT IS 

THREE DAYS IN THE YEAR THE SYSTEM OF MARRIAGE UNCLE ABRAM s 

CONTEMPT OF MATRIMONY. 

- IN consequence of my inability in cotton-picking, 
Epps was in the habit of hiring me out on sugar 
plantations during the season of cane-cutting and 
sugar-making. He received for my services a dollar 
a day, with the money supplying my place on his 
cotton plantation. Cutting cane was an employment 
that suited me, and for three successive years I held 
the lead row at Hawkins , leading a gang of from 
fifty to an hundred hands. 

In a previous chapter the mode of cultivating cot 
ton is described. This may be the proper place to 
speak of the manner of cultivating cane. 

The ground is prepared in beds, the same as it is 
prepared for the reception of the cotton seed, except 



MODE OF PLANTING CANE. 209 

it is ploughed deeper. Drills are made in the same 
manner. Planting commences in January, and con 
tinues until April. It is necessary to plant a sugar 
field only once in three years. Three crops are taken 
before the seed or plant is exhausted. 

Three gangs are employed in the operation. One 
draws the cane from the rick, or stack, cutting the 
top and flags from the stalk, leaving only that part 
which is sound and healthy. Each joint of the cane 
has an eye, like the eye of a potato, which sends forth 
a sprout when buried in the soil. Another gang laya 
the cane in the drill, placing two stalks side by side 
in such manner that joints will occur once in four or 
six inches. The third gang follows with hoes, drawing 
earth upon the stalks, and covering them to the depth 
of three inches. 

In four weeks, at the farthest, the sprouts appear 
above the ground, and from this time forward grow 
with great rapidity. A sugar field is hoed three 
times, the same as cotton, save that a greater quantity 
of earth is drawn to the roots. By the first of Au 
gust hoeing is usually over. About the middle of 
September, whatever is required for seed is cut and 
stacked in ricks, as they are termed. In October it 
is ready for the mill or sugar-house, and then the gen 
eral cutting begins. The blade of a cane-knife is fif 
teen inches long, three inches wide in the middle, and 
tapering towards the point and handle. The blade 
is thin, and in order to be at all serviceable must be 
kept very sharp. Every third hand takes the lead of 

14 



210 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

two others, one of whom is on each side of him. The 
lead hand, in the first place, with a blow of his knife 
shears the flags from the stalk. He next cuts off the 
top down as far as it is green. He must be careful 
to sever all the green from the ripe part, inasmuch 
as the juice of the former sours the molasses, and ren 
ders it unsalable. Then he severs the stalk at the 
root, and lays it directly behind him. His right and 
left hand companions lay their stalks, when cut in the 
same manner, upon his. To every three hands there 
is a cart, which follows, and the stalks are thrown into 
it by the younger slaves, when it is drawn to the su 
gar-house and ground. 

If the planter apprehends a frost, the cane is win- 
rowed. Winrowing is the cutting the stalks at an 
early period and throwing them lengthwise in the wa 
ter farrow in such a manner that the tops will cover 
the butts of the stalks. They will remain in this con 
dition three weeks or a month without souring, and 
secure from frost. When the proper time arrivej, 
they are taken up, trimmed and carted to the sugar- 
house. 

In the month of January the slaves enter the fiel 1 
again to prepare for another crop. The ground id 
now strewn with the tops, and flags cut from the p/;et 
year s cane. On a dry day fire is set to this combus 
tible refuse, which sweeps over the field, leaving it 
bare and clean, and ready for the hoes. The earth is 
loosened abci the roots of the old stubble, and in 
process of time another crop springs up from the last 



2l 1 

/ear s seed. It is the same the year following ; but 
the third year the seed has exhausted its strength, 
and the field must be ploughed and planted again. 
The second year the cane is sweeter and yields more 
than the first, and the third year more than the seconf. 

During the three seasons I labored on Hawkins 
plantation, I was employed a considerable portion of 
the time in the sugar-house. He is celebrated as the 
producer of the finest variety of white sugar. The 
following is a general description of his sugar-house 
and the process of manufacture : 

The mill is an immense brick building, standing on 
the shore of the bayou. Running out from the build 
ing is an open shed, at least an hundred feet in length 
and forty or fifty feet in width. The boiler in which 
the steam is generated is situated outside the main 
building ; the machinery and engine rest on a brick 
pier, fifteen feet above the floor, within the body of the 
building. The machinery turns two great iron rollers, 
between two and three feet in diameter and six 01 
eight feet in length. They are elevated above the 
brick pier, and roll in towards each other. An end 
less carrier, made of chain and wood, like leathern 
belts used in small mills, extends from the iron rollers 
out of the main building and through the entire 
length of the open shed. The carts in which the cane 
is brought from the field as fast as it is cut, are un 
loaded at the sides of the shed. All along the endless 
carrier are ranged slave children, whose business it is 
to place the cane upon it, when it is conveyed through 



J12 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

the shed into the main building, where it falls be 
tween the rollers, is crushed, and drops upon another 
carrier that conveys it out of the main building in an 
opposite direction, depositing it in the top of a chim 
ney upon a fire beneath, which consumes it. It is ne 
cessary to burn it in this manner, because otherwise 
it would soon fill the building, and more especially 
because it would soon sour and engender disease. 
The juice of the cane falls into a conductor underneath 
the iron rollers, and is carried into a reservoir. Pipes 
convey it from thence into five filterers, holding sev 
eral hogsheads each. These filterers are filled with 
bone-black, a substance resembling pulverized char 
coal. It is made of bones calcinated in close vessels, 
and is used for the purpose of decolorizing, by filtra 
tion, the cane juice before boiling. Through these 
five filterers it passes in succession, and then runs into 
a large reservoir underneath the ground floor, from 
whence it is carried up, by means of a steam pump, 
into a clarifier made of sheet iron, where it is heated 
by steam until it boils. From the first clarifier it ia 
carried in pipes to a second and a third, and thence 
into close iron pans, through which tubes pass, filled 
with steam. While in a boiling state it flows through 
three pans in succession, and is then carried in other 
pipes down to the coolers on the ground floor. Cool 
ers are wooden boxes with sieve bottoms made of the 
finest wire. As soon as the syrup passes into the 
coolers, and is met by the air, it grains, and the mo- 
asses at once escapes through the sieves into a cisterp 



CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS. 213 

below. It is then white or loaf sugar of the linest 
kind clear, clean, and as white as snow. When 
cool, it is taken out, packed in hogsheads, and is ready 
for market. The molasses is then carried from the 
cistern into the upper story again, and by another 
process converted into brown sugar. 

There are larger mills, and those constructed differ 
ently from the one thus imperfectly described, but 
none, perhaps, more celebrated than this anywhere 
on Bayou Bceuf. Lambert, of New-Orleans, is a part 
ner of Hawkins. He is a man. of vast wealth, hold 
ing, as I have been told, an interest in over forty dif 
ferent sugar plantations in Louisiana. 

******** 

""TChe only respite from constant labor the slave has 
1 through the whole year, is during the Christmas holi- 
l^ a y s - Epps allowed us three others aTtowHfbrTr, 
five and six days, according to the measure of their 
generosity. It is the only time to which they look 
forward with any interest or pleasure. They are glad 
when night comes, not only because it brings them a 
few hours repose, but because it brings them one day 
nearer Christmas. It is hailed with equal delight by 
the old and the young ; even Uncle Abram ceases to 
glorify Andrew Jackson, and Patsey forgets her many 
sorrows, amid the general hilarity of the holidays. It 
is the time of feasting, and frolicking, and fiddling 
the carnival season with" tlieT childTen of bondage. 
They are the only days when they are allowed a little 
restricted liberty, and heartily indeed do they enjoy it 



214 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

It is the custom for one planter to give a " Christ 
mas supper," inviting the slaves from neighboring 
plantations to join his own on the occasion; for in 
stance, one year it is given by Epps, the next by Mar 
shall, the next by Hawkins, and so on. Usually from 
three to five hundred are assembled, coming togethei 
on foot, in carts, on horseback, on mules, riding double 
and triple, sometimes a boy and girl, at others a girl 
and two boys, and at others again a boy, a girl and 
an old woman. Uncle Abram astride a mule, with 
Aunt Phebe and Patsey behind him, trotting towards 
a Christmas supper, would be no uncommon sight on 
Bayou Boeuf. 

Then, too, " of all days i the year," they array 
themselves in their best attire. The cotton coat has 
been washed clean, the stump of a tallow candle has 
been applied to the shoes, and if so fortunate as to pos 
sess a rimless or a crownless hat, it is placed jauntily 
on the head. They are welcomed with equal cordial 
ity, however, if they come bare-headed and bare 
footed to the feast. As a general thing, the women ^ 
wear handkerchiefs tied about their heads, but if 
chance has thrown in their way a fiery red ribbon, 
or a cast-off bonnet of their mistress grandmother, it 
is sure to be worn on such occasions. Red the deep^ 
blood red is decidedly the favorite color among the 
enslaved damsels of my acquaintance. If a red rib 
bon does not encircle the neck, you will be certain to 
find all the hair of their woolly heads tied up with red 
strings of one sort or another. 



THE CHRISTMAS SUFFER. 

table is spread in tlic open air, and loaded with 
varieties of meat and piles of vegetables. Bacon and 
corn meal at such times are dispensed with. Some* 
times the cooking is performed in the kitchen on the 
plantation, at others in the shade of wide branching 
trees. In the latter case, a ditch is dug in the ground, 
and wood laid in and burned until it is filled with 
glowing coals, over which chickens, ducks, turkeys, 
pigs, and not unfrequently the entire body of a wild 
ox, are roasted. They are furnished also with flour, 
of which biscuits are made, and often with peach and 
other preserves, with tarts, and every manner and de 
scription of pies, except the mince, that being an ar 
ticle of pastry as yet unknown among them. Only 
the slave who has lived all the years on his scanty al 
lowance of meal and bacon, can appreciate such sup 
pers. White people in great numbers assemble to 
witness the gastronomical enjoyments. 

They seat themselves at the rustic table the males 
on one side, the females on the other. The two be 
tween whom there may have been an exchange of 
tenderness, invariably manage to sit opposite ; for the 
omnipresent Cupid disdains not to hurl his arrows into 
the simple hearts of slaves. Unalloyed and exulting 
happiness lights up the dark faces of them all. The 
ivory teeth, contrasting with their black complexions, 
exhibit two long, white streaks the whole extent of 
the table. All round the bountiful board a multitude 
of eyes roll in ecstacy. Giggling and laughter 
&e clattering of cutlery and crockery succeed. Cuf 



216 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

fee s elbow Imuclies his neighbor s side, impelled by 
an involuntary impulse of delight ; Nelly shakes hei 
finger at Sambo and laughs, she knows not why, and 
BO the fun and merriment flows on. 

When the viands have disappeared, and the hungry 
maws of the children of toil are satisfied, then, next 
in the order of amusement, is the Christmas dance. 
My business on these gala days always was to play on 

^^ _ _ L . .. r . I -" n 

the violin. The African race is a music-loving one, 
proverbially ; and many there were among my fellow- 
bondsmen whose organs of tune were strikingly devel 
oped, and who could thumb the banjo with dexterity ; 
but at the expense of appearing egotistical, I must, 
nevertheless, declare, that I was considered the Ole 
Bull of Bayou Bceuf. My master often received let 
ters, sometimes from a distance of ten miles, request 
ing him to send me to play at a ball or festival of the 
whites. He received his compensation, and usually I 
also returned with many picayunes jingling in my 
pockets the extra contributions of those to whose 
delight I had administered. In this manner I became 
more acquainted than I otherwise would, up and down 
the bayou. The young men and maidens of Holmes- 
ville always knew there was to be a jollification some 
where, whenever Platt Epps was seen passing through 
the town with his fiddle in his hand. " Where are 
you going now, Platt ?" and " What is coming oif to 
night, Platt ?" would be interrogatories issuing from 
every door and window, and many a time when there 
\vtis no special hurry, yielding to pressing importuni- 



THE VIOLIN. 217 

tics, Pltitt would draw liis bow, and sitting astride 
his mule, perhaps, discourse musically to a crowd 
of delighted children, gathered around him in the 
street. , 

Alas ! had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarce 
ly can conceive how I could have endured the long 
years of bondage. It introduced me to great houses 
relieved me of many days labor in the field sup 
plied me with conveniences for my cabin with 
pipes and tobacco, and extra pairs of shoes, and often 
times led me away from the presence of a hard mas 
ter, to witness scenes of jollity and mirt.h._ Tt w?ia 
my companion the friend of my bosom triumph 
ing loudly when I was joyful, and uttering its soft, 
melodious consolations when I was sad. Often, at 

^__ m i 

midnight, when sleep had fled affrighted from the 
cabin, and my soul was disturbed and troubled with 
the contemplation of my fate, it would sing me a song 
of peace. On holy Sabbath days, when an hour or 
two of leisure was allowed, it would accompany me 
to some quiet place on the bayou bank, aad, lifting 
up its voice, discourse kindly and pleasantly indeed. 
Lt heralded my name round the country made me 
friends, who, otherwise would not have noticed me 
gave me an honored seat at the yearly feasts, and se 
cured the loudest and heartiest welcome of them all 
at the Christmas dance. The Christmas dance ! Oh, 
ye pleasure-seeking sons and daughters of idleness, 
who move with measured step, listless and snail-like, 
through the slow-winding cotillon, if ye wish to look 



218 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

upon the celerity, if not the " poetry of motion" 
tipon genuine happiness, rampant and unrestrained 
go down to Louisiana, and see the slaves dancing in 
the starlight of a Christmas night. 

On that particular Christmas I have now in my 
mind, a description whereof will serve as a descrip 
tion of the day generally, Miss Lively and Mr. Sam 
the first belonging to Stewart, the latter to Roberts, 
started the ball. It was well known that Sam cher 
ished an ardent passion for Lively, as also did one of 
Marshall s and another of Carey s boys ; for Lively 
was lively indeed, and a heart-breaking coquette with 
al. It was a victory for Sam Roberts, when, rising 
from the repast, she gave him her hand for the tf cst 
"figu e" in preference to either of his rivals. T <ey 
wer^ somewhat crest-fallen, and, shaking their h ads 
angrily, rather intimated they would like to pitcl into 
Mr. Sam and hurt him badly. But not an ei> jtion 
of wrath ruffled the placid bosom of Samuel as his 
legs flew like drum-sticks down the outside ind up 
the middle, by the side of his bewitching >artner. 
The whole company cheered them vociferously, and, 
excited with the applause, they continued ki tearing 
down" after all the others had become exhausted and 
nalted a moment to recover breath. But Sam s su 
perhuman exertions overcame him finally, leaving 
Lively alone, yet whirling like a top. Thereupon one 
of Sam s rivals, Pete Marshall, dashed in, and, with 
might and main, leaped and shuffled and threw him 
self into every conceivable shape, as if determined to 



SOUTHERN LIFE AS IT 18. 2 It) 

show Miss Lively and all the world that Sam Koberts 
was of no account. 

Pete s affection, however, was greater than his dis 
cretion. Such violent exercise took the breath out of 
him directly, and he dropped like an empty "bag. 
Then was the time for Harry Carey to try his hand ; 
but Lively also soon out- winded him, amidst hurrahs 
and shouts, fully sustaining her well-earned reputation 
of being the " fastest gal" on the bayou. 

One " set" off, another takes its place, he or she re 
maining longest on the floor receiving the most up 
roarious commendation, and so the dancing continue/ 
until broad daylight. It does not cease with the 
sound of the fiddle, but in that case they set up a mu 
sic peculiar to themselves. This is called " patting," 
accompanied with one of those unmeaning songs, 
composed rather for its adaptation to a certain time 
or measure, than for the purpose of expressing any 
distinct idea. The patting is performed by striking \ 
the hands on the knees, then striking the hands to- ) 
gether, then striking the right shoulder with one / 
hand, the left with the other all the while keeping/ 
time with the feet, and singing, perhaps, this song / 

" Harper s creek and roarin ribber, 
Thar, my dear, we ll live forebber ; 
Den we ll go to de Ingin nation, 
All I want in dis creation, 
Is pretty little wife and big plantation. 

Uhorus. Up dat oak and down dat ribber, 

Two overseers and one little nigger " 



1420 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

Or, if these words are not adapted to the tune called 
for, it may be that " Old Hog Eye" is a rather sol 
emn and startling specimen of versification, not, how 
ever, to be appreciated unless heard at the South. It 
runneth as follows : 

" Who s been here since I ve been gone ? 
Pretty little gal wid a josey on. 

Hog Eye ! 
Old Hog Eye, 
And Hosey too ! 

Never see de like since I was born, 
Here come a little gal wid a josey on. 

Hog Eye ! 
Old Hog Eye ! 
And Hosey too !" 

Or, may be the following, perhaps, equally nonsen 
sical, but full of melody, nevertheless, as it flows 
from the negro s mouth : 

" Ebo Dick and Jurdan s Jo, 
Them two niggers stole my yo". 

Chorus. Hop Jim along, 
Walk Jim along, 
Talk Jim along," &c. 



Old black Dan, as black as tar, 
He dam glad he was not dar. 

Hop Jim along," &c. 

During the remaining holidays succeeding Christ 
mas, they are provided wMi passes, and permitted to 
go where they please within a limited distance, or 
they iMay remain and labor on the plantation, iu 



THREE DAYS IN THE YEAR. 221 

which case they are paid for it. It is very rarely* 
however, that the latter alternative is accepted. 
Tl ey may be seen at these times hurrying in all di 
rections, as happy looking mortals as can be found 
on the face of the earth. \They are different beinga 
from what they are in the field ; the temporary re 
laxation, the brief deliverance from fear, and from 
the lash, producing an entire metamorphosis in their 
appearance and demeanorN, In visiting, riding, renew 
ing old friendships, or, perchance, reviving some old 
attachment, or pursuing whatever pleasure may sug 
gest itself, the time is occupied. Such is "southern 
]i_fe_a_s it is," three days in the year, as I found it 
the other three hiindxed^ and sixty-two being days 
of weariness, and fear, and suffering, and unremit 
ting labor. 

Marriage is frequently contracted during the holi 
days, If such an institution may be said to exist 
among them. The only ceremony required before 
entering into that " holy estate," is to obtain the con 
sent of the respective owners. It is usually encour 
aged by the masters of female slaves. Either party 
can have as many husbands or wives as the owner 
will permit, and either is at liberty to discard the 
other at pleasure. The law in relation to divorce, or 
to bigamy, and so forth, is not applicable to property 
of course. If the wife does not belong on the same 
plantation with the husband, the latter is permitted 
to visit her on Saturday nights, if the distance is not 
too far. Uncle Abram s wife lived seven miles froin 



222 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

Epps , on Bayou Huff Power. He had permission t^ 
visit her once a fortnight, but he was growing old, as 
has been said, and +~ *dfi to say, had latterly well nigli 
forgotter her. Uncle Abram had no time to spare 
from his meditations on General Jackson connubial 
dalliance being well enough for the young and 
thoughtless, but unbecoming a grave and solemn phi 
losopher like himself. 



CHAPTER XVI 

; VEK8KI!RS HOW THEY ARE ARMED AND ACCOMPANIED THE HOMICIDE 

HIS EXECUTION AT MARKSVILLE SLAVE-DRIVERS APPOINTED DRIVE! 

ON REMOVING TO BAYOU BCEUF PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT EPPs AT 
TEMPT TO CUT PLATT S THROAT THE ESCAPE FROM HIM PROTECTED 

BY THE MISTRESS FORBIDS READING AND WRITING OBTAIN A SHEEt 

OF PAPER AFTER NINE YEARS EFFORT THE LETTER ARMSBY, THB 

MEAN WHITE PARTIALLY CONFIDE IN HIM HIS TREACHERY EPPS* 

SUSPICIONS HOW THEY WERE QUIETED BURNING THE LETTER ARMS 
BY LEAVES THE BAYOU DISAPPOINTMENT AND DESPAIR, 

WITH the exception of my trip to St. Mary s parish, 
and my absence during the cane-cutting seasons, I 
was constantly employed on the plantation of Master 
Epps. He was considered but a small planter, not 
having a sufficient number of hands to require the 
services of an overseer, acting in the latter capaoiU 
himself. Not able to increase his force, it was his 
custom to hire during the hurry of cotton-picking. 

On large* estates, employing fifty or a hundred, 01 
perhaps two hundred hands, an overseer is deemed 
indispensable. These gentlemen ride into the fie 1 / 
on horseback, without an exception, to myknowledg 
armed with pistols, bowie knife, whip, and accompa 
nied by several dogs. They follow, equipped in this \ 
fashion, in rear of the slaves, keeping a sharp le^kout^ 



224 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

upon them all. The requisite qualifications in an_ 
overseer are utter heartlessness, brutality and cruelty. 
It is his business to produce large crops, and if that is 
accomplished, no matter what amount of suffering it 
may have cost. The presence of the dogs are neces 
sary to overhaul a fugitive who may take to his heel? 
as is sometimes the case, when faint or sick, he is UE 
able to maintin his row, and unable, also, to en 
dure the whip. The pistols are reserved for any dan 
gerous emergency, there having been instances when 
such weapons were necessary. Goaded into uncon 
trollable madness, even the slave will sometimes turn 
upon his oppressor. The gallows were standing at 
Marksville last January, upon which one was execu 
ted a year ago for killing his overseer. It occurred 
not many miles from Epps plantation on Eed River. 
The slave was given his task at splitting rails. In 
the course of the day the overseer sent him on an 
errand, which occupied so much time that it was not 
possible for him to perform the task. The next day 
he was called to an account, but the loss of time oc 
casioned by the errand was no excuse, and he was 
ordered to kneel and bare his back for the reception 
of the lash. They were in the woods alone beyond 
the reach of sight or hearing. The boy submitted 
until maddened at such injustice, and insane with 
pain, he sprang to his feet, and seizing an axe, liter 
ally chopped the overseer in pieces. He made no at 
tempt whatever at concealment, but hastening to hia 
master, related the whole affair, and declared himseli 



SLAVE DKIVEBS. 225 

ready to expiate the wrong by the sacrifice of his life. 
He was led to the scaffold, and while the rope was 
around his neck, maintained an undismayed and 
fearless bearing, and with his last words justified the 
act. 

Besides the overseer, there are drivers under him 
the number being in proportion to the number of 
hands in the field. The drivers are black, who, in 
addition to the performance of their equal share of 
work, are compelled to do the whipping of their 
several gangs. Whips hang around their necks, and 
if they fail to use them thoroughly, are whipped 
themselves. They have a few privileges, however ; 
for example, in cane-cutting the hands are not allow 
ed to sit down long enough to eat their dinners. Carts 
filled with corn cake, cooked at the kitchen, are driv 
en into the field at noon. The cake is distributed by 
the drivers, and must be eaten with the least possible 
delay. 

"When the slave ceases to perspire, as he often does 
when taxed beyond his strength, he falls to the ground 
and becomes entirely helpless. It is then the duty 
of the driver to drag him into the shade of the stand 
ing cotton or cane, or of a neighboring tree, where 
he dashes buckets of water upon him, and uses other 
means of bringing out perspiration again, when he is 
ordered to his place, and compelled to continue his 
labor. 

At Huff Power, when I first came to Epps , Tom, 
one of Koberts 7 negroes, was driver. He was a burly 
J* 15 



226 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

fellow, and severe in the extreme. After Epps re 
moval to Bayou Boeuf, that distinguished honor was 
conferred upon myself. Up to the time of my de 
parture I had to wear a whip about my neck in the 
field. If Epps was present, I dared not show any 
lenity, not having the Christian fortitude of a certain 
well-known Uncle Tom sufficiently to brave his wrath 
by refusing to perform the office. In that way, only, 
I escaped the immediate martyrdom he suffered, and, 
withal, saved my companions much suffering, as it 
proved in the end. Epps, I soon found, whether 
actually in the field or not, had his eyes pretty gen 
erally upon us. From the piazza, from behind some 
adjacent tree, or other concealed point of observation, 
he_was perpetually on the watch. If one of us had 
been backward or idle through the day, we were apt 
to be told all about it on returning to the quarters, 
and as it was a matter of principle with him to re 
prove every offence of that kind that came within his 
knowledge, the offender not only was certain of re 
ceiving a castigation for his tardiness, but I likewise 
was punished for permitting it. 
^f, on the other hand, he had seen me use the lash 
freely, the man was satisfied. " Practice makes per* 
/feet," truly ; and during my eight years experience 
as a driver, I learned to handle the whip with mar 
velous dexterity and precision, throwing the lash 
within a hair s breadth of the back, the ear, the nose, 
without, however, touching either of them. If Epps 
was observed at a distance, or we had reason to ap- 



APPOINTED DKIVEE. 227 

sion, if he made his appearance presently, to mumble 
in his hearing some complaints that Platt was lash 
ing them the whole time, and Uncle Abram, with an 
appearance of honesty peculiar to himself, would de 
clare roundly I had just whipped them worse than 
General Jackson whipped the enemy at New-Orleans. 
If Epps was not drunk, and in one of his beastly hu 
mors, this was, in general, satisfactory. If he was, 
some one or more of us must suffer, as a matter of 
course. Sometimes his violence assumed a dangerou 
form, placing the lives of his human stock in jeop 
ardy. On one occasion the drunken madman thought 
to amuse himself by cutting my throat. 

He had been absent at Holmesville, in attendance at 
a shooting-match, and none of us were aware of his 
return. While hoeing by the side of Patsey, she ex 
claimed, in a low voice, suddenly, " Platt, d ye see 
old Hog-Jaw beckoning me to come to him ?" 

Glancing sideways, I discovered him in the edge 
of the field, motioning and grimacing, as was his habit 
when half-intoxicated. Aware of his lewd intentions, 
Patsey began to cry. I whispered her not to look up, 
and to continue at her work, as if she had not ob 
served him. Suspecting the truth of the matter, 
however, he soon staggered up to me in a great rage. 



228 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

** WTiat did you say to Pats ?" lie demanded, with 
an oatli. I made him some evasive an swer, which 
only had the effect of increasing his violence. 

" How long have you owned this plantation, say 

you d d nigger ?" he inquired, with a malicious 

sneer, at the same time taking hold of my shirt col 
lar with one hand, and thrusting the other into his 
pocket. " Now I ll cut your black throat ; that s 
what I ll do," drawing his knife from his pocket as 
he said it. But with one hand he was unable to 
open it, until finally seizing the blade in his teeth, ] 
saw he was about to succeed, and felt the necessity 
of escaping from him, for in his present reckless state, 
;it was evident he was not joking, by any means. My 
Bhirt was open in front, and as I turned round quickly 
and sprang from him, while he still retained his gripe, 
it was stripped entirely from my back. There was 
no difficulty now in eluding him. He would chase 
me until out of breath, then stop until it was recov 
ered, swear, and renew the chase again. Now he 
would command me to come to him, now endeavor 
to coax me, but I was careful to keep at a respectful 
distance. In this manner we made the circuit of the 
field several times, he making desperate plunges, and 
I always dodging them, more amused than frightened, 
veil knowing that when his sober senses returned, 
he would laugh at his own drunken folly. At length 
I observed the mistress standing by the yard fence, 
watching our half-serious, half-comical manoeuvres. 
Shooting past him, I ran directly to her. Epps, on 



PROTECTED BY THE MISTRESS. 229 

discovering her, did not follow. He remained about 
the field an hour or more, during which time I stood 
by the mistress, having related the particulars of 
what had taken place. Now, she was aroused again, 
denouncing her husband and Patsey about equally. 
Finally, Epps came towards the house, by this time 
nearly sober, walking demurely, with his hands bo- 
hind his back, and attempting to look as innocent as 
a child. 

~^As he approached, nevertheless, Mistress Epps be 
gan to berate him roundly, heaping upon him many 
rather disrespectful epithets, and demanding for what 
reason he had attempted to cut my throat. Epps 
made wondrous strange of it all, and to my surprise, 
swore by all the saints in the calendar he had not 
spoken to me that day. 

" Platt^ you lying nigger, have I ?" was his brazen 
appeal to me. 

f It is not safe to contradict a master, even by the 
I assertion -of a truth. So I was silent, and when he en 
I tered the house I returned to the field, and the affair 
w^as never after alluded to. 

Shortly after this time a circumstance occurred that 
came nigh divulging the secret of my real name and 
history, which I had so long and carefully concealed, 
and upon which I was convinced depended my final 
escape. Soon after he purchased me, Epps asked 
me if I could write and read, and on being informed 
that I had received some instruction in those branches 
of education, he assured me, with emphasis, if he evei 



230 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

caught me with a book, or with pen and ink, he would 
give me a hundred lashes. He said he wanted me to 
understand that he bought " niggers" to work and not 
to educate. He never inquired a word of my past 
life, or from whence I came. The mistress, however, 
cross-examined me frequently about Washington, 
which she supposed was my native city, and more 
than once remarked that I did not talk nor act like 
the other " niggers," and she was sure I had seen more 
of the world than I admitted. 

My great object always was to invent means of get 
ting a letter secretly into the post-office, directed to 
some of my friends or family at the JSTorth. The diffi 
culty of such an achievement cannot be comprehend 
ed by one unacquainted with the severe restrictions 
imposed upon me. In the first place, I was deprived 
of pen, ink, and paper. In the second place, a slave 
cannot leave his plantation without a pass, nor will a 
post-master mail a letter for one without written in 
structions from his owner. I was in slavery nine 
years, and always watchful and on the alert, before I 
met with the good fortune of obtaining a sheet of pa- 
\j)gr. While Epps was in New-Orleans, one winter, 
disposing of his cotton, the mistress sent me to Holmes- 
ville, with an order for several articles, and among 
the rest a quantity of foolscap. I appropriated a sheet 
concealing it in the cabin, under the board on which 
I slept. 

^ After various experiments I succeeded in making 
ink, by boiling white maple bark, and with a feather 



THE LETTER. 231 

from the wing of a duck, manufactured a 
pen. When all were asleep in the cabin, by the light 
of the coals, lying upon my plank couch, I managed 
to complete a somewhat lengthy epistle. It was di 
rected to an old acquaintance at Sandy Hill, stating 
my condition, and urging him to take measures to re 
store me to liberty. This letter I kept a long time, 
contriving measures by which it could be safely de 
posited in the post-office. At length, a low fellow, by 
the name of Armsby, hitherto a stranger, came into 
the neighborhood, seeking a situation as overseer. 
He applied to Epps, and was about the plantation for 
sever -1 days. He next went over to Shaw s, near by, 
and remained w T ith him several weeks. Shaw w r as 
genr-ally surrounded by such worthless characters, 
being himself noted as a gambler and unprincipled 
man. He had made a wife of his slave Charlotte, and 
a b/ood of young mulattoes were growing up in his 
house. Armsby became so much reduced at last, 
that he was compelled to labor with the slaves. A 
white man working in the field is a rare and unusual 
spectacle on Bayou Boeuf. I improved every oppor 
tunity of cultivating his acquaintance privately, de 
siring to obtain his confidence so far as to be willing 
to intrust the letter to his keeping. He visited Marks- 
ville repeatedly, he informed me, a town some twenty 
miles distant, and there, I proposed to myself, the let 
ter should be mailed. 

Carefully deliberating on the most proper manner 
of approaching him on the subject, I concluded final* 



232 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

ly to ask him simply if he would deposit a letter foi 
me in the Marksville post-office the next time he via 
ited that place, without disclosing to him that the let 
ter was written, or any of the particulars it contained ; 
for I had fears that he might betray me, and knew 
that some inducement must be held out to him of a 
pecuniary nature, before it would be safe to confide 
in him. As late as one o clock one night I stole noise 
lessly from my cabin, and, crossing the field to Shaw s, 
found him sleeping on the piazza. I had but a few 
picayunes the proceeds of my fiddling performan 
ces, but all I had in the world I promised him if lie 
would do me the favor required. I begged him not 
to expose me if he could not grant the request. He 
assured me, upon his honor, he would deposit it in the 
Marksville post-office, and that he would keep it an 
inviolable secret forever. Though the letter was in 
my pocket at the time, I dared not then deliver it to 
him, but stating I would have it written in a day or 
two, bade him good night, and returned to my cab 
in. It was impossible for me to expel the suspicion^ 
I entertained, and all night I lay awake, revolving in\ 
my mind the safest course to pursue. I was willing 
to risk a great deal to accomplish my purpose, but 
should the letter by any means fall into the hands of 
Epps, it would be a death-blow to my aspirations. I/ 
was " perplexed in the extreme." 
... My suspicions were well-founded, as the sequel de 
monstrated. The next day but one, while scraping cot 
ton in the field, Epps seated himself on the line fence 



233 

between Shaw s plantation and his own, in such a po 
sition as to overlook the scene of our labors. Pres 
ently Armsby made his appearance, and, mounting 
the fence, took a seat beside him. They remained 
two or three hours, all of which time I was in an ag 
ony of apprehension. 

That night, while broiling my bacon, Epps entered 

the cabin with his rawhide in his hand. 

/ ~_ 

I " Well, boy," said he, " I understand I ve got a 
lamed nigger, that writes letters, and tries to get 
white fellows to mail em. Wonder if you know who 
he is ?" 

.,_,_ * 

My worst fears were realized, and although it may 
not be considered entirely creditable, even under the 
circumstances, yet a resort to duplicity and downright 
falsehood was the only refuge that presented itself. 

" Don t know nothing about it, Master Epps," I an 
swered him, assuming an air of ignorance and sur 
prise ; " Don t know nothing at all about it, sir." 

" Wan t you over to Shaw s night before last ?" he 
inquired. 

" No, master," was the reply. 

" Hav nt you asked that fellow, Armsby, to mail a 
letter for you at Marksville ?" 

" Why, Lord, master, I never spoke three words to 
him in all my life. I don t know what you mean." 

" Well," he continued, " Armsby told me to-day the 
devil was among my niggers ; that I had one that 
needed close watching or he would run away ; and 
when I axed him why, he said you come over tc 



234 TWELVE YEAE8 A SLAVE. 

Shaw s, and waked him up in the night, and wanted 
him to carry a letter to Marksville. What have you 
got to say to that, ha ?" 

" All I ve got to say, master," I replied, " is, there 
is no truth in it. How could I write a letter without 
any ink or paper ? There is nobody I want to write 
to, cause I haint got no friends living as I know of. 
That Armsby is a lying, drunken fellow, they say, and 
nobody believes him anyway. You know I always 
tell the truth, and that I never go off the plantation 
without a pass. Now, master, I can see what that 
Armsby is after, plain enough. Did nt he want you 
to hire him for an overseer ?" 

" Yes, he wanted me to hire him," answered Epps. 

" That s it," said I, " he wants to make you believe 
we re all going to run away, and then he thinks you ll 
hire an overseer to watch us. He just made that sto 
ry out of whole cloth, cause he wants to get a situa 
tion. It s all a lie, master, you may depend on t." 
^Epps mused awhile, evidently impressed with the 
plausibility of my theory, and exclaimed, 

" I m d d, Platt, if I don t believe you tell the 
truth. He must take me for a soft, to think he can 
come it over me with them kind of yarns, musn t he ? 
Maybe he thinks he can fool me ; maybe he thinks 
I don t know nothing can t take care of my own 
niggers, eh ! Soft soap old Epps, eh ! Ha, ha, ha ! 
D n Armsby! Set the dogs on him, Platt," and 
with many other comments descriptive of Arrnsby a 
general character, and his capability of taking care of 



DISAPPOINTMENT AND DESPAIR. 235 

his own business, and attending to liis own " niggers," 
Master Epps left the cabin. As soon as he was gone 
I threw the letter in the fire, and, with a desponding 
and despairing heart, beheld the epistle which had 
cost me so much anxiety and thought, and which I 
fondly hoped would have been my forerunner to the 
land of freedom, writhe and shrivel on its bed of coals, 
and dissolve into smoke and ashes. Armsby, the 
treacherous wretch, was driven from Shaw s planta 
tion not long subsequently, much to my relief, for I 
feared he might renew his conversation, and perhaps 
induce Epps to credit him. 

"Nl knew not now whither to look for deliverance. 
Hopes sprang up in my heart only to be crushed and 
. blighted. The summer of my life was passing away ; 
-^1 felt I was growing prematurely old ; that a few 
years more, and toil, and grief, and the poisonous mi 
asmas of the swamps would accomplish their work 
upon me would consign me to the grave s embrace, 
to moulder and be forgotten. Repelled, betrayed, cut 
off from the hope of succor, I could only prostrate 
myself upon the earth and groan in unutterable an 
guish. The hope of rescue was the only light that 
cast a ray of comfort on my heart. That was now 
flickering, faint and low ; another breath of disap 
pointment would extinguish it altogether, leaving me 
to grope in midnight darkness to the end of life. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

TLKT DISREGARDS THE COUNSELS OF AUNT PHEBE AND UNCLE ABRAM, 

AND IS CAUGHT BY THE PATROLLERS THE ORGANIZATION AND DUTIK8 

OF THE LATTER WILEY RUNS AWAY SPECULATIONS IN REGARD TO 

HIM HIS UNEXPECTED RETURN HIS CAPTURE ON RED RIVER, AND 

CONFINEMENT IN ALEXANDRIA JAIL DISCOVERED BY JOSEPH B. ROB 
ERTS SUBDUING DOGS IN ANTICIPATION OF ESCAPE THE FUGITIVES 

IN THE GREAT PINE WOODS CAPTURED BY ADAM TAYDEM AND THB 

INDIANS AUGUSTUS KILLED BY DOGS NELLY, ELDRET s SLAVE WOMAN 

THE STORY OF CELESTE THE CONCERTED MOVEMENT LEW CHEENEY, 

THE TRAITOR THE IDEA OF INSURRECTION. 

THE year 1850, down to which time I have now ar 
lived, omitting many occurrences uninteresting to the 
reader, was an unlucky year for my companion Wiley, 
the husband of Phebe, whose taciturn and retiring 
nature has thus far kept him in the background. Not 
withstanding "Wiley seldom opened his mouth, and 
revolved in his obscure and unpretending orbit with 
out a grumble, nevertheless the warm elements of so 
ciality were strong in the bosom of that silent " nig 
ger." In the exuberance of his self-reliance, disre 
garding the philosophy of Uncle Abram, and setting 
the counsels of Aunt Phebe utterly at naught, he had 
the fool-hardiness to essay a nocturnal visit to a neigh 
boring cabin without a pass. 



237 

So attractive was the society in which he found 
\ himself, that Wiley took little note of the passing 
hours, and the light began to break in the east before 
he was aware. Speeding homeward as fast as he 
conld run, he hoped to reach the quarters before the 
horn would sound ; but, unhappily, he was spied on 
the way by a company of patrollers. 

How it is in other dark places of slavery, I do not 
know, but on Bayou Boeuf there is an organization of 
~~patrollers, as they are styled, whose business it is to 
seize and w r hip any slave they may find wandering 
from the plantation. They ride on horseback, headed 
by a captain, armed, and accompanied by dogs. Tl 
have the right, either by law, or by general consent 
to inflict discretionary chastisement upon a black man 
caught beyond the boundaries of his master s estate 
without a pass, and even to shoot him, if he attempts 
10 escape. Each company has a certain distance to 
ride up and down the bayou. They are compensated 
by the planters, who contribute in proportion to the 
number of slaves they own. The clatter of their hor 
ses hoofs dashing by can be heard at all hours of the 
night, and frequently they may be seen driving a 
slave before them, or leading him by a rope fastened 
around his neck, to his owner s plantation. 

Wiley fled before one of these companies, thinking 
he could reach his cabin before they could overtake 
him ; but one of their dogs, a great ravenous hound, 
griped him by the leg, and held him fast. The pa 
trollers whipped him severely, and brought him, a 



238 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

prisoner, to Epps. From liim he received anotliei 
flagellation still more severe, so that fhe exits of the 
lash and the bites of the clog rendered him sore, stiff 
and miserable, insomuch he was scarcely able to move. 
It was impossible in such a state to keep up his row 
and consequently there was not an hour in the daj 
but Wiley felt the sting of his master s rawhide on 
his raw and bleeding back. His sufferings became 
intolerable, and finally he resolved to run away. 
Without disclosing his intentions to run away even 
to his wife Phebe, he proceeded to make arrange 
ments for carrying his plan into execution. Having 
cooked his whole week s allowance, he cautiously left 
the cabin on a Sunday night, after the inmates of the 
quarters were asleep. When the horn sounded in the 
morning, Wiley did not make his appearance. Search 
was made for him in the cabins, in the corn-crib, in 
the cotton-house, and in every nook and corner of the 
premises. Each of us was examined, touching any 
knowledge we might have that could throw light upon 
his sudden disappearance or present whereabouts. 
Epps raved and stormed, and mounting his horse, gal 
loped to neighboring plantations, making inquiries 
in all directions. The search was fruitless. Nothing 
whatever was elicited, going to show what had be 
come of the missing man. The dogs were led to the 
swamp, but were unable to strike his trail. They 
would circle away through the forest, their noses to 
the ground, but invariably returned in a short time 
to the spot from whence they started. 



239 

Wiley had escaped, and so secretly and cautiously 
as to elude and baffle all pursuit. Days and even 
weeks passed away, and nothing could be heard of 
him. Epps did nothing but curse and swear. It was 
the only topic of conversation among us when alone. 

e indulged in a great deal of speculation in regard 
to him, one suggesting he might have been drowned 
in some bayou, inasmuch as he was a poor swimmer ; 
another, that perhaps he might have been devoured 
by alligators, or stung by the venomous moccasin, 
\whose bite is certain and sudden death. The warm 
and hearty sympathies of us all, however, were 
with poor Wiley, wherever he might be. Many aip^ 
earnest prayer ascended from the lips of Uncle Abram, 
beseeching safety for tho wanderer. 

In about three weeks, when all hope of ever seeing 
him again, was dismissed, to our surprise, he one day 
appeared among us. On leaving the plantation, he 
informed us, it was his intention to make his way 
v back to South Carolina to the old quarters of Mas- 
J ^er Buford. During the day he remained secreted, 
sometimes mjthe branches of a tree, and at_ji|ght 
pressed forward through the swamps. Finally, one 
morning, just at dawn, Tie reachecT Hie shore of Red 
River. While standing on the bank, considering how 
he could cross it, a white man accosted him, and de 
manded a pass. Without one, and evidently a runa 
way, he was taken to Alexandria, the shire town of 
the parish of Rapide, and ccnSnsd. in prison. It 
happened several days after tfiat J osep^ K Roberts, 



24:0 TWELVE YEAE8 A SLAVE. 

ancle of Mistress Epps, was in Alexandria, and going 
into the jail, recognized him. Wiley had worked on 
his plantation, when Epps resided at Huff Power. 
Paying the jail fee, and writing him a pass, under 
neath which was a note to Epps, requesting him not 
to whip him on his return, Wiley was sent back to 
Bayou Boeuf. It was the hope that hung upon this 
request, and which Roberts assured him would be re 
spected by his master, that sustained him as he ap 
proached the house. The request, however, as may 
be readily supposed, was entirely disregarded. After 
being kept in suspense three days, Wiley was stripped, 
and compelled to endure one of those inhuman flog 
gings to which the poor slave is so often subjected. 
It was the first and last attempt of Wiley to run away. 
v The long scars upon his back, which he wdll carry 
with him to the grave, perpetually remind him of the 
dangers of such a step. 

There was not a day throughout the ten years I be 
longed to Epps that I did not consult with myself upon 
the prospect of escape. I laid many plans, which at 
the time I considered excellent ones, but one after the 
other they were all abandoned. No man who has 
never been placed in such a situation, can comprehend 
the thousand obstacles thrown in the way of the flying 
/"slave. Every white man s hand is raised against him 
1 the patrollers are watching for him the hounds 
: are ready to follow on his track, and the nature of 
the country is such as renders it impossible to pass 
through it with any safety. I thought, however, that 



FUGITIVES IN THE PINE WOODS. 241 

the time might come, perhaps, when I should be run 
ning through the swamps again. I concluded, in that 
case, to be prepared for Epps dogs, should they pur 
sue me. He possessed several, one of which was a 
notorious slave-hunter, and the most fierce and savage 
of his breed. While out hunting the coon or the 
opossum, I never allowed an opportunity to escape, 
when alone, of whipping them severely. In this man 
ner I succeeded at length in subduing them com 
pletely. They feared me, obeying my voice at once 
when others had no control over them whatever. 
Had they followed and overtaken me, I doubt not 
thejf would have shrank from attacking me. 

Notwithstanding the certainty of being captured, 
the woods and swamps are, nevertheless, continually 
filled with runaways. Many of them, when sick, or 
so worn out as to be unable to perform their tasks, 
escape into the swamps, willing to suffer the punish 
ment inflicted for such offences, in order to obtain a 
day or two of rest. 

While I belonged to Ford, I was unwittingly the 
means of disclosing the hiding-place of six or eight, 
who had taken up their residence in the " Great Pine 
Woods. 7 Adam Taydem frequently sent me from 
the mills over to the opening after provisions. The 
whole distance was then a thick pine forest. About 
ten o clock of a beautiful moonlight night, while 
walking along the Texas road, returning to the mills, 
carrying a dressed pig in a bag swung over my 
shoulder, I heard footsteps behind me, and turning 
K 16 



242 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

round, beheld two black men in the dress of slaves 
approaching at a rapid pace. "When within a short 
distance, one of them raised a club, as if intending to 
strike me ; the other snatched at the bag. I managed 
to dodge them both, and seizing a pine knot, hurled 
t with such force against the head of one of them 
that he was prostrated apparently senseless to the 
ground. Just then two more made their appearance 
from one side of the road. Before they could grapple 
ne, however, I succeeded in passing them, and taking 
o my heels, fled, much affrighted, towards the mills. 
When Adam was informed of the adventure, he 
hastened straightway to the Indian village, and arous 
ing Cascalla and several of his tribe, started in pur 
suit of the highwaymen. I accompanied them to the 
scene of attack, when we discovered a puddle of 
blood in the road, where the man whom I had smit 
ten with the pine knot had fallen. After searching 
carefully through the woods a long time, one of Cas 
calla s men discovered a smoke curling up through 
the branches of several prostrate pines, whose tops 
had fallen together. The rendezvous was cautiously 
surrounded, and all of them taken prisoners. They 
had escaped from a plantation in the vicinity of La- 
mourie, and had been secreted there three weeks. 
They had no evil design upon me, except to frighten 
mo out of my pig. Having observed me passing 
towards Ford s just at night-fall, and suspecting the 
nature of my errand, they had followed me, seen me 
butcher and dress the porker, and start on my return- 



AUGUSTUS KILLED BY DOGS. 24:3 

l| 

-They had been pinched for food, and were driven 
to this extremity by necessity. Adam conveyed 
v them to the parish jail, and was liberally rewarded. 

!N"ot unfrequently the runaway loses his life in the 
attempt to escape. Epps premises were bounded Cr 
one sideTy Carey s, a very extensive sugar planta 
tion. He cultivates annually at least fifteen hundred 
acres of cane, manufacturing twenty-two or twenty- 
three hundred hogsheads of sugar ; an hogshead and 
a half being the usual yield of an acre. Besides this 
he also cultivates five or six hundred acres of corn and 
cotton. He owned last year one hundred and fifty 
three field hands, besides nearly as many children, and 
yearly hires a drove during the busy season from this 
side the Mississippi. 

One of his negro drivers, a pleasant, intelligent 
boy, was named Augustus. During the holidays, and 
occasionally while at work in adjoining fields, I had 
an opportunity of making his acquaintance, which 
eventually ripened into a warm and mutual attach 
ment. Summer before last he was so unfortunate as 
to incur the displeasure of the overseer, a coarse, 
heartless brute, who* whipped him most cruelly. Au 
gustus ran away. Beaching a cane rick on Hawkins 5 
plantation, he secreted himself in the top of it. All 
Carey s dogs were put upon his track some fifteen 
of them and soon scented his footsteps to the hiding 
place. They surrounded the rick, baying and scratch 
ing, but could not reach him. Presently, guided by 
the clamor of the hounds, the pursuers rode up, when 



244 TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 

the overseer, mounting on to the rick, drew him forth. 
As he rolled down to the ground the whole pack 
plunged uK>n him, and before they could be beaten 
off, had gnawed and mutilated his body in the most 
shocking manner, their teeth having penetrated to 
the bone in an hundred places. He was taken up, 
tied upon a mule, and carried home. But this was 
Augustus last trouble. He lingered until the next 
day, when death sought the unhappy boy, and kindly 
relieved him from his agony. 

It was not unusual for slave women as well as slave 
men to endeavor to escape. Nelly, Eldret s girl, with 
whom I lumbered for a time in the " Big Cane 
Brake," lay concealed in Epps corn crib three days. 
At night, when his family were asleep, she would 
steal into the quarters for food, and return to the crib 
again. We concluded it would .no longer be safe for 
us to allow her to remain, and accordingly she re 
traced her steps to her own cabin. 

But the most remarkable instance of a successful 
evasion of dogs and hunters was the following : 
Among Carey s girls was one by the name of Celeste. 
She was nineteen or twenty, and far whiter than her 
owner, or any of his offspring. It required a close 
inspection to distinguish in her features the slightest 
trace of African blood. A stranger would never 
have dreamed that she was the descendant of slaves. 
I was sitting in my cabin late at night, playing a low 
air on my violin, when the door opened carefully, and 
Celeste stood before me. She was pale and haggard 



STORY OF CELESTE. 245 

Had an apparition arisen from the earth, I could not 
have been more startled. 

" Who are you ?" I demanded, after gazing at her 
a moment. 

" I m hungry ; give me some bacon," was her reply. 
X My first impression was that she was some de 
ranged young mistress, who, escaping from home, was 
wandering, she knew not whither, and had been 
attracted to my cabin by the sound of the violin. 
The coarse cotton slave dress she wore, however, soon 
dispelled such a supposition. 

" What is your name ?" I again interrogated. 

" My name is Celeste," she answered. " I belong 
to Carey, and have been two days among the pal- 
mettoes. I am sick and can t work, and would rather 
die in the swamp than be whipped to death by the 
\ overseer. Carey s dogs won t follow me. They have 
tried to set them on. There s a secret between them 
and Celeste, and they wont mind the devilish orders 
of the overseer. Give me some meat I m starving." 

I divided my scanty allowance with her, and while 
partaking of it, she related how she had managed to 
escape, and described the place of her concealment. 
In the edge of the swamp, not half a mile from Epps 
house, was a large space, thousands of acres in 
extent, thickly covered with palmetto. Tall trees, 
whose long arms interlocked each other, formed a 
canopy above them, so dense as to exclude the beams 
of the sun. It was like twilight always, even in the 
middle of the brightest day. In the centre of thia 



24:6 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

great space, which nothing but serpents very often 
explore a sombre and solitary spot Celeste had 
erected a rude hut of dead branches that had fallen 
to the ground, and covered it with the leaves of the 
palmetto. This was the abode she had selected. 
She had no fear of Carey s dogs, any more than I had 
of Epps . It is a fact, which I have never been able 
to explain, that there are those whose tracks the 
hounds will absolutely refuse to follow. Celeste was 
one of them. 

For several nights she came to my cabin for food. 
On one occasion our dogs barked as she approached, 
which aroused Epps, and induced him to reconnoitre 
the premises. He did not discover her, but after that 
it was not deemed prudent for her to come to the 
yard. When all was silent I carried provisions to a 
certain spot agreed upon, where she would find them. 

In this manner Celeste passed the greater part of 
the summer. She regained her health, and became 
strong and hearty. At all seasons of the year the 
bowlings of wild animals can be heard at night along 
the borders of the swamps. Several times they had 
made her a midnight call, awakening her from slum 
ber with a growl. Terrified by such unpleasant salu 
tations, she finally concluded to abandon her lonely 
dwelling ; and, accordingly, returning to her master, 
was scourged, her neck meanwhile being fastened in 
the stocks, and sent into the field again. 

The year before my arrival in the country there 
was a concerted movement among a number of slaves 



THE CONCERTED MOVEMENT. 24:7 

on Bayou Boeuf, tliat terminated tragically indeed, 
It was, I presume, a matter of newspaper notoriety at 
the time, but all the knowledge I have of it, has been 
derived from the relation of those living at that period 
in the immediate vicinity of the excitement. It has 
become a subject of general and unfailing interest in 
every slave-hut on the bayou, and will doubtless go 
down to succeeding generations as their chief tradi 
tion. Lew Cheney, with whom I became acquainted 
a shrewd, cunning negro, more intelligent than the 
generality of his race, but unscrupulous and full of 
treachery conceived the project of organizing a com 
pany sufficiently strong to fight their way against all 
opposition, to the neighboring territory of Mexico. 

A remote spot, far within the depths of the swamp 
back of Hawkins plantation, was selected as the ral 
lying point. Lew flitted from one plantation to an 
other, in the dead of night, preaching a crusade to 
Mexico, and, like Peter the Hermit, creating a furor 
of excitement wherever he appeared. At length a 
large number of runaways were assembled; stolen 
mules, and corn gathered from the fields, and bacon 
filched from smoke-houses, had been conveyed into 
the woods. The expedition was about ready to pro 
ceed, when their hiding place was discovered. Lew 
Cheney, becoming convinced of the ultimate failure 
of his project, in order to curry favor with his master, 
and avoid the consequences which he foresaw would 
follow, deliberately determined to sacrifice all his 
companions. Departing secretly from the encamp- 



248 TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 



, he proclaimed among the planters the number 
collected in the swamp, and, instead of stating truly 
the object jhey had in view, asserted their intention 
was to emerge from their seclusion the first favorable 
opportunity, and murder every white person along the 
bayou. 

f "Snch an announcement, exaggerated as it passed 
( from mouth to mouth, filled the whole country with 
terror. The fugitives were surrounded and taken pris- 
cners, carried in chains to Alexandria, and hung by 
the populace. "Not only those, but many who were 
suspected, though entirely innocent, were taken from 
1 the field and from the cabin, and without the shadow 
\ of process or form of trial, hurried to the scaffold. 
Thlf planters on Bayou Boeuf finally rebelled against 
such reckless destruction of property, but it was not 
until a regiment of soldiers had arrived from some 
fort on the Texan frontier, demolished the gallows, 
and opened the doors of the Alexandria prison, that 
the indiscriminate slaughter was stayed. Lew Che 
ney escaped, and w^as even rewarded for his treachery. 
He is still living, but his name is despised and exe 
crated by all his race throughout the parishes of 
Rapides and Avoyelles. 

Such an idea as insurrection, however, is not new 
among the enslaved population of Bayou Boeuf. More 
than once I have joined in serious consultation, when 
the subject has been discussed, and there have been 
times when a word from me would have placed hun 
dreds of my fellow-bondsmen in an attitude of deft- 



THE IDEA OF INSURRECTION. 24C 

ance. Without arms or ammunition, or even with 
them, I saw such a step would result in certain defeat, j 
disaster and death, and always raised my voic^/ 
against it. 

During the Mexican war I well remember the ex 
travagant hopes that were excited. The news of vie 
tory filled the great house with rejoicing, but pro 
duced only sorrow and disappointment in the cabin. 
In my opinion and I have had opportunity to know 
something of the feeling of which I speak there are 
not fifty slaves on the shores of Bayou Boeuf, but 
would hail with unmeasured delight the approach of 
an invading army. 

They are deceived who flatter themselves that the 
ignorant and debased slave has no conception of the 
magnitude of his wrongs. They are deceived who 
imagine that he arises from his knees, with back la 
cerated and bleeding, cherishing only a spirit of meek 
ness and forgiveness. A day may come it will 
come, if his prayer is heard a terrible day of ven 
geance, when the master in his turn will cry in 
for mercy. 

K* 



CHAPTER XVIII. 



TUB TANNER - CONVERSATION WITH AUNT PHEBE OVERHEARD - EPW 
IN THE TANNING BUSINESS - STABBING OF UNCLE ABRAM - THE UGLY 
WOUND - EPPS IS JEALOUS - PATSEY IS MISSING - HER RETURN FROM 

SHAW S HARRIET, SHAW S BLACK WIFE EPPS ENRAGED PATSEY DE 

NIES HIS CHARGES - SHE IS TIED DOWN NAKED TO FOUR STAKES - THK 
INHUMAN FLOGGING - FLAYING OF PATSEY - THE BEAUTY OF THE DAY 
THE BUCKET OF SALT WATER - THE DRESS STIFF WITH BLOOD - PATSEY 
GROWS MELANCHOLY - HER IDEA OF GOD AND ETERNITY - OF HEAVEN AND 
FREEDOM - THE EFFECT OF SLAVE- WHIPPING - EPPS OLDEST SON - "THE 
CHILD IS FATHER TO THE MAN." 

WILEY suffered severely at the hands of Master 
Epps, as has been related in the preceding chapter, 
but in this respect he fared no worse than his unfor 
tunate companions. " Spare the rod," was an idea 
scouted by our master. He was constitutionally sub 
ject to periods of ill-humor, and at such times, how 
ever little provocation there might be, a certain 
amount of punishment was inflicted. The circum 
stances attending the last flogging but one that- 1 re 
ceived, will show how trivial a cause was sufficient 
with him for resorting to the whip. 

A Mr. O Kiel, residing in the vicinity of the Big 
Pine Woods, called upon Epps for the purpose of pur- 



O NIEL, THE TANNEK. 251 

chasing me. He was a tanner and currier by occu 
pation, transacting an extensive business, and intend 
ed to place me at service in some department of his 
establishment, provided he bought me. Aunt Phebe, 
while preparing the dinner-table in the great house, 
overheard their conversation. On returning to the 
yard at night, the old woman ran to meet me, design 
ing, of course, to overwhelm me with the news. She 
entered into a minute repetition of all she had heard, 
and Aunt Phebe was one whose ears never failed to 
drink in every word of conversation uttered in her 
hearing. She enlarged upon the fact that "Massa 
Epps was g wine to sell me to a tanner ober in de 
Pine Woods," so long and loudly as to attract the at 
tention of the mistress, who, standing unobserved on 
the piazza at the time, was listening to our conver 
sation. 

" Well, Aunt Phebe," said I, " I m glad of it. I m 
tired of scraping cotton, and would rather be a tanner. 
I hope he ll buy me." 

O JS"iel did not effect a purchase, however, the par 
ties differing as to price, and the morning following 
his arrival, departed homewards. He had been gone 
but a short time, when Epps made his appearance in 
the field. Now nothing will more violently enrage a 
master, especially Epps, than the intimation of one of 
his servants that he would like to leave him. Mis 
tress Epps had repeated to him my expressions to 
Aunt Phebe the evening previous, as I learned from 
the latter afterwards, the mistress having mentioned 



TWELVE YEAKS A SLATE. 

to hot* that <she had overheard us. Oil entering t Lo 
field, Epps walked directly to me. 

" So, Platt, you re tired of scraping cotton, are you ? 
You would like to change your master, eh ? You re 
fond of moving round traveler ain t ye ? Ah, 
yes like to travel for your health, may be? Feel 
above cotton-scraping, I spose. So you re going into 
the tanning business ? Good business devilish fine 
business. Enterprising nigger ! B lieve I ll go into 
that business myself. Down on your knees, and strip 
that rag off your back ! I ll try my hand at tanning." 

I begged earnestly, and endeavored to soften him 
with excuses, but in vain. There was no other alter 
native ; so kneeling down, I presented my bare back 
for the application of the lash. 

" How do you like tanning ? " he exclaimed, as the 
rawhide descended upon my flesh. " How do you 
like tanning f " he repeated at every blow. In this 
manner he gave me twenty or thirty lashes, inces 
santly giving utterance to the word " tanning," in one 
form of expression or another. When sufficiently 
" tanned," he allowed me to arise, and w T ith a half- 
malicious laugh assured me, if I still fancied the busi 
ness, he would give me further instruction in it when- 
ever I desired. This time, he remarked, he had only 
given me a short lesson in " tanning " the next time 
he would " curry me down." 

- Uncle Abram, also, was frequently treated with 
great brutality, although he was one of the kindest 
and most faithful creatures in the world. He was my 



STABBING OF UNCLE ABRAM. 253 

r^hbiii-mate for years. There was a benevolent ex 
pression in the old man s face, pleasant to behold, 
He regarded us with a kind of parental feeling, always 
counseling us with remarkable gravity and delibe 
ration. 

Returning from Marshall s plantation one afternoon, 
whither I had been sent on some errand of the mis 
tress, I found him lying on the cabin floor, his clothes 
saturated with blood. He informed me that he 
been stabbed ! While spreading cotton on the 
fold, Epps came home intoxicatgej. from Holrnesville. 
He found fault with every thing, giving many orders 
so directly contrary that it was impossible to execute ^^ 
any of them. Uncle Abram, whose faculties were 
growing dull, became confused, and committed some 
blunder of no particular consequence. Epps was so^ 
enraged thereat, that, with drunken recklessness, he 
flew upon the old man, and stabbed him in the back. 
It was a long, ugly wound, but did not happen to 
penetrate far enough to result fatally. It was sewed 
up by the mistress, who censured her husband with 
extreme severity, not only denouncing his inhumanity, 
but declaring that she expected nothing else than that 
he would bring the family to poverty that he would 
kill all the slaves on the plantation in some of hia 
drunken fits. 

It was no uncommon thing with him to prostrate 
Aunt Phebe with a chair or stick of wood ; but the 
most cruel whipping that ever I was doomed to wit 
ness one I can never recall with any other emotion 



254: TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

than that of horror was inflicted on the unfortunate 
Patsey. 

It has been seen that the jealousy and hatred of 
Mistress Epps made the daily life of her young and 
agile slave completely miserable. I am happy in the 
belief that on numerous occasions I was the means of 
averting punishment from the inoffensive girl. In 
Epps absence the mistress often ordered me to whip 
her without the remotest provocation. I would refuse, 
saying that I feared my master s displeasure, and sev 
eral times ventured to remonstrate with her against 
the treatment Patsey received. I endeavored to im 
press her with the truth that the latter was not re 
sponsible for the acts of which she complained, but 
that she being a slave, and subject entirely to her 
master s will, he alone was answerable. 

At length " the green-eyed monster " crept into the 
soul of Epps also, and then it was that he joined with 
his wrathful wife in an infernal jubilee over the girl s 
miseries. 

On a Sabbath day in hoeing time, not long ago, we 
were on the bayou bank, washing our clothes, as was 
our usual custom. Presently Patsey was missing 
Epps called aloud, but there was no answer. No one 
had observed her leaving the yard, and it was a won 
der with us whither she had gone. In the course of 
a couple of hours she was seen approaching from the 
direction of Shaw s. This man, as has been intima 
ted, was a notorious profligate, and withal not on the 
most friendly terms with Epps. Harriet, his black 



PATSEY S RETURN FROM SHAW S. 255 

wife, knowing Patsey s troubles, was kind to her, in 
consequence of which the latter was in the habit o^ 
going over to see her every opportunity. Her visitsi 
were prompted by friendship merely, but the suspi-\ 
cion gradually entered the brain of Epps, that another I 
and a baser passion led her thither that it was not 
Harriet she desired to meet, but rather the unblush-/ 
ing libertine, his neighbor. Patsey found her maste/ 
in a fearful rage on her return. His violence so 
alarmed her that at first she attempted to evade direct 
answers to his questions, which only served to increase 
his suspicions. She finally, however, drew herself up 
proudly, and in a spirit of indignation boldly denied 
his charges. 

"^ Missus don t give me soap to wash with, as she 
does the rest," said Patsey, " and you know why. I 
went over to Harriet s to get a piece," and saying this, 
she drew it forth from a pocket in her dress and ex 
hibited it to him. " That s what I went to Shaw s for, 
Massa Epps," continued she ; " the Lord knows that 
was all." 

" You lie, you black wench ! " shouted Epps. 

" I dorft lie, massa. If you kill me, I ll stick to that. 

" Oh ! I ll fetch you down. I ll learn you to go to 
Shaw s. I ll take the starch out of ye," he muttered 
fiercely through his shut teeth. 

Then turning to me, he ordered four stakes to be 
driven into the ground, pointing with the toe of his 
boot to the places where he wanted them. When the 
stakes were driven down, he ordered her to be strip- 



256 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

t - 

)ed of every article of dress. Ropes were tlien 
brought, and the naked girl was laid upon her face, 
her wrists and feet each tied firmly to a stake. Step 
ping to the piazza, he took down a heavy whip, and 
placing it in my hands, commanded me to lash her. 
Unpleasant as it was, I was compelled to obey him. 
Nowhere that day, on the face of the whole earth, I 
venture to say, was there such a demoniac exhibition 
witnessed as then ensued. 

Mistress Epps stood on the piazza among . her chil 
dren, gazing on the seen** % r ith an air of heartless sat- 
\ isfaction. The slaves were Auddled together at a lit 
tle distance, their countenances indicating the sorrow 
of their hearts. Poor Patsey prayed piteously for 
mercy, but her prayers were vain. Epps ground his 
teeth, and stamped upon the ground, screaming at me, 
like a mad fiend, to strike harder. 

" Strike harder, or your turn will come next, you 
scoundrel," he yelled. 

"Oh, mercy, massa ! oh! have mercy, do. Oh, 
God ! pity me," Patsey exclaimed continually, strug 
gling fruitlessly, and the flesh quivering at every 
stroke. 

When I had struck her as many as thirty times, 1 
stopped, and turned round toward Epps, hoping he 
was satisfied ; but with bitter oaths and threats, he 
ordered me to continue. I inflicted ten or lift con 
blows more. By this time her back was covered with 
long welts, intersecting each other like net work. 
Epps was yet furious and savage as ever, demanding 



FLAYING OF PATSEY. 257 

.f she would like to go to Shaw s again, and swear 
ing he would flog her until she wished she was in h 1. 
Throwing down the whip, I declared I could punish 
her no more. lie ordered me to go on, threatening 
me with a severer flogging than she had received, in ./ 
case of refusal. My heart revolted at the inhuman ~ 
scene, and risking the consequences, I ahsolutely re 
fused to raise the whip. He then seized it himself, 
and applied it with ten-fold greater force than I had 
The painful cries and shrieks of the tortured Patsey, 
mingling with the loud and angry curses of Epps, 
loaded the air. She was terribly lacerated I ma 
say, without exaggeration, literally flayed. The 
lash was wet with blood, which flowed down her 
sides and dropped upon the ground. At length she 
ceased struggling. Her head sank listlessly on the 
ground. Her screams and supplications gradually 
decreased and died away into a low moan. She no 
longer writhed and shrank beneath the lash when 
out small pieces of her flesh. I thought that she w 
dying! 

It was the Sabbath of the Lord. The fields smiled 
in the warm sunlight the birds chirped merrily 
amidst the foliage of the trees peace and happiness 
seemed to reign everywhere, save in the bosoms of 
Epps and his panting victim and the silent witnesses 
around him. The tempestuous emotions that were 
raging there were little in harmony with the calm 
and cpiiet beauty of the day. I could look on Epps 

xvitli unutterable loathing and abhorrence, and 

17 



258 * TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

thought within myself " Thou devil, sooner or later, 
somewhere in the course of eternal justice, thou shalt 
answer for this sin ! " 

-^Finally, he ceased whipping from mere exhaustion, 
and ordered Phebe to bring a bucket of salt and wa 
ter. After washing her thoroughly with this, I was 
told to take her to her cabin. Untying the ropes, I 
raised her in my arms. She was unable to stand, and 
as her head rested on my shoulder, she repeated ma 
ny times, in a faint voice scarcely perceptible, " Oh, 
Platt oh, Platt !" but nothing further. Her dress 
was replaced, but it clung to her back, and was soon 
stiff with blood. We laid her on some boards in the 
hut, where she remained a long time, with eyes closed 

^ and groaning in agony. At night Phebe applied 
melted tallow to her wounds, and so far as we were 

x able, all endeavored to assist and console her. Day 
after day she lay in her cabin upon her face, the sores 
preventing her resting in any other position. 

A blessed thing it would have been for her days 
and weeks and months of misery it would have saved 
her had she never lifted up her head in life again. 
Indeed, from that time forward she was not what she 
had been. The burden of a deep melancholy weigh 
ed heavily on her spirits. She no longer moved with 
that buoyant and elastic step there was not that 
mirthful sparkle in her eyes that formerly distin 
guished her. The bounding vigor the sprightly, 
laughter-loving spirit of her youth, were gone. She 
fell into a mournful and desponding mood, and often- 



PATSEY S IDEA OF GOD, &t. * 259 

times would start up in her sleep, and with raised 
hands, plead for mercy. She became more silent 
than she was, toiling all day in our midst, not uttering 
a word. A care-worn, pitiful expression settled on 
her face, and it was her humor now to weep, rather 
than rejoice. If ever there was a broken heart 
one crushed and blighted by the rude grasp of suffer 
ing and misfortune it was Patsey s. 

She had been reared no better than her master s 
beast looked upon merely as a valuable and hand 
some animal and consequently possessed but a Km 
ited amount of knowledge. And yet a faint light 
cast its rays over her intellect, so that it was not 
wholly dark. She had a dim perception of God and 
of eternity, and a still more dim perception of a Sav 
iour who had died even for such as her. She enter 
tained but confused notions of a future life not com 
prehending the distinction between the corporeal and 
spiritual existence. Happiness, in her mind, was ex 
emption from stripes from labor from the cruelty 
of masters and overseers. Her idea of the joy of 
heaven was simply rest^ and is fully expressed in these 
lines of a melancholy bard : 

" I ask no paradise on high, 

With cares on earth oppressed, 

The only heaven for which I sigh, 
Is rest, eternal rest." 

It is a mistaken opinion that prevails in some quar 
ters, that the slave does not understand the term 
does not comprehend the idea of freedom. Even on 



260 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

Bayou Bceuf, where I conceive slavery exists in it.- 
most abject and cruel form where it exhibits fea 
tures altogether unknown in more northern States -- 
the most ignorant of them generally know full well 
its meaning. They understand the privileges and 
exemptions that belong to it that it would bestow 
upon them the fruits of their own labors, and that it 
would secure to them the enjoyment of domestic hap 
piness. They do not fail to observe the difference 
/ between their own condition and the meanest white 
man s, and to realize the injustice of the laws which 
place it in his power not only to appropriate the 
profits of their industry, but to subject them to un 
merited and unprovoked punishment, without reme 
dy, or the right to resist, or to remonstrate. 

Patsey s life, especially after her whipping, was one 
long dream of liberty. Far away, to her fancy an 
immeasurable distance, she knew there was a land of 
freedom. A thousand times she had heard that 
somewhere in the distant North there were no 
slaves no masters. In her imagination it was an 
enchanted region, the Paradise of the earth. To dwell 
where the black man may work for himself live in 
his own cabin till his own soil, was a blissful dream 
of Patsey s a dream, alas ! the fulfillment of which 

n never realize. 

^ The effect of these exhibitions of brutality on the 
/ household of the slave-holder, is apparent. Epps 
oldest son is an intelligent lad of ten or twelve years 
of age. It is pitiable, sometimes, to see him chas- 



EPI S OLDEST SON. 261 

tising, for instance, the venerable Uncle Abram. He \ l/^ 
will call the old man to account, and if in his child- j 
ish judgment it is necessary, sentence him to a cer 
tain number of lashes, which he proceeds to inflict 
with much gravity and deliberation. Mounted on his 
pony, he often rides into the field with his whip, play 
ing the overseer, greatly to his father s delight. 
Without discrimination, at such times, he applies the 
rawhide, urging the slaves forward with shouts, and 
occasional expressions of profanity, while the old man 
laughs, and commends him as a thorough-going boy./ 

" The child is father to the man," and with, sucl 
training, whatever may be his natural disposition, it 
cannot well be otherwise than that, on arriving at ma 
turity, the sufferings and miseries of the slave will 
be looked upon with entire indifference. The influ 
ence of the iniquitous system necessarily fosters an 
unfeeling and cruel spirit, even in the bosoms of those 
who, among their equals, are regarded as humane 
and generous. 

Young Master Epps possessed some noble qualities, 
yet no process of reasoning could lead him to com 
prehend. th-.it in the eye of the Almighty there is no 
distinction of color. He looked upon the black man 
simply ?& an animal, differing in no respect from any 
other animal, save in the gift of speech and the pos^ 
session of somewhat higher instincts, and, therefore, 
the more valuable. To work like his father s mules 
to be whipped and kicked and scourged through life 
NX) address the white man with hat in hand, and eyes 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

"bent servilely on the earth, in his mind, was the natu 
ral and proper destiny of the slave. Brought up with 
such ideas in the notion that we stand without the 
pale of human-ity no wonder the oppressors of my 
people are a pitiless and unrelenting race. 



CHAPTER XIX. 

AVERT, OF BAYOU ROUGE PECULIARITY OF DWELLINGS EPPS BUILDS A 

NEW HOUSE BASS, THE CARPENTER HIS NOBLE QUALITIES HIS PER 
SONAL APPEARANCE AND ECCENTRICITIES BASS AND EPPS DISCUSS TUB 

QUESTION OF SLAVERY EPPS OPINION OF BASS 1 MAKE MYSELF 

KNOWN TO HIM OUR CONVERSATION HIS SURPRISE THE MIDNIGHT 

MEETING ON THE BAYOU BANK BASS ASSURANCES DECLARES WAR 

AGAINST SLAVERY WHY I DID NOT DISCLOSE MY HISTORY BASS WRITES 

LETTERS COPY OF HIS LETTER TO MESSRS. PARKER AND PERRY THE 

FEVER OF SUSPENSE DISAPPOINTMENTS BASS ENDEAVORS TO CHEER 

ME MY FAITH IN HIM. 

IN the month of June, 1852, in pursuance of a pre 
vious contract, Mr. Avery, a carpenter of Bayou 
Rouge, commenced the erection of a house for Mas 
ter Epps. It has previously been stated that there 
are no cellars on Bayou Boeuf ; on the other hand, 
such is the low and swampy nature of the ground, 
the great houses are usually built upon spiles. An 
other peculiarity is, the rooms are not plastered, but 
the ceiling and sides are covered with matched cy 
press boards, painted such color as most pleases the 
owner s taste. Generally the plank and boards are 
sawed by slaves with whip-saws, there being no water- 
power upon which mills might be built within many 
miles. When the planter erects for himself a dwel 
ling, therefore, there is plenty of extra work for his 



264 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

slaves. Having had some experience under Tibeats 
as a carpenter, I was taken from the field altogether, 
on the arrival of Avery and his hands. 
^-Among them was one to whom I owe an immeas 
urable debt of gratitude. Only for him, in all prob 
ability, I should have ended my days in slavery. He 
was my deliverer a man whose true heart over 
flowed with noble and generous emotions. To the 
last moment of my existence I shall remember him 
with feelings of thankfulness. His name was Bass, 
and at that time he resided in Marksville. It will 
be difficult to convey a correct impression of his ap 
pearance or character. He was a large man, between 
forty and fifty years old, of light complexion and 
light hair. He was very cool and self-possessed, fond 
of argument, but always speaking with extreme de 
liberation. He was that kind of person whose pecu 
liarity of manner was such that nothing he uttered 
ever gave offence. What would be intolerable, com 
ing from the lips of another, could be said by him 
with impunity. There was not a man on Red River, 
perhaps, that agreed with him on the subject of poli 
tics or religion, and not a man, I venture to say, who 
discussed either of those subjects half as much. It 
seemed to be taken for granted that he would espouse 
the unpopular side of every local question, and it al 
ways created amusement rather than displeasure 
among his auditors, to listen to the ingenious and 
original manner in which he maintained the contro 
versy. He was a bachelor an " old bachelor," ac- 



BASS, THE CAKPENTER. 265 

cording to the true acceptation of the term having 
no kindred living, as he knew of, in the world. Nei 
ther had he any permanent abiding place wander 
ing from one State to another, as his fancy dictated. 
He had lived in Marksville three or four years, and 
in the prosecution of his business as a carpenter ; and 
in consequence, likewise, of his peculiarities, was 
quite extensively known throughout the parish of 
Avoyelles. He was liberal to a fault ; and his many 
acts of kindness and transparent goodness of heart 
rendered him popular in the community, the senti 
ment of which he unceasingly combated. 
N He was a native of Canada, from whence he had 
wandered in early life, and after visiting all the prin 
cipal localities in the northern and western States, in 
the course of his peregrinations, arrived in the un 
healthy region of the Red River. His last removal 
was from Illinois. Whither he has now gone, I re 
gret to be obliged to say, is unknown to me. He 
gathered up his effects and departed quietly from 
Marksville the day before I did, the suspicions of his 
instrumentality in procuring my liberation rendering 
Buch a step necessary. For the commission of a just 
and righteous act he would undoubtedly have suffer 
ed death, had he remained within reach of the slave- 
whipping tribe on Bayou Boeuf. 

One day, while working on the new house, Bass 
and Epps became engaged in a controversy, to which, 
as will be readily supposed, I listened with absorbing 
interest. They were discussing the subject of Slavery 



266 TWELVE TEAKS u 

/^ I tell you what it is Epps," said ifosvs, * It s all 
/wrong all wrong, sir there s no justice Aor right 
eousness in it. I wouldn t own a slave if I was rich 
as Croesus, which I am not, as is perfectly well under 
stood, more particularly among my creditors. There s 
another humbug the credit system humbug, sir; 
no credit no debt. Credit leads a man into tempta 
tion. Cash down is the only thing that will deliver 
him from evil. But this question of Slavery ; what 
right have you to your niggers when you come down 
to the point?" 

" What right ! " said Epps, laughing ; " why, I 
bought em, and paid for em." 

Of course yOu did ; the law says you have the right 
to hold a nigger, but begging the law s pardon, it 
lies. Yes, Epps, when the law says that it s a liar, 
and the truth is not in it. Is every thing right be 
cause the law allows it? Suppose they d pass a law 
taking away your liberty and making you a slave f 

" Oh, that ain t a supposable case," said Epps, still 
laughing ; " hope you don t compare me to a nigger, 
Bass." 

/-"" Well," Bass answered gravely, " no, not exactly. 
But I have seen niggers before now as good as I am, 
and I have no acquaintance with any white man in 
these parts that I consider a whit better than myself. 
Now, in the sight of God, what is the difference, 
Epps, between a white man and a black one ?" 

" All the difference in the world," replied Eppa. 
u You might as well ask \vhat the difference is be- 



DISCUSSION ON SLAVERY. 267 

tween a white man and a baboon. Now, Pve seen 
r ne of them critters in Orleans that knowed just as 
nuch as any nigger I ve got. You d call them fellei 
citizens, I s pose ? " and Epps indulged in a loud 
laugh at his own wit. 

" Look here, Epps," continued his compani jn ; " you 
can t laugh me down in that way. Soace men are 
witty, and some ain t so witty as they think they are. 
Now let me ask you a question. Avc all men created 
free and equal as the Declaration of Independence 
holds they are ? " 

" Yes," responded Epps, " but all men, niggers, and 
monkeys ain t \" and hereupon he broke forth into a 
more boisterous laugh than before. 

"There are monkeys among white people as well 
as black, when you come to that," coolly remarked 
Bass. " I know some white men that use arguments 
no sensible monkey would. But let that pass. These 
niggers are human beings. If they don t know as 
much as their masters, whose fault is it ? They art 
not allowed to know anything. You have books and^^ 
papers, and can go where you please, and gather 
intelligence in a thousand ways. But your slaves 
have no privileges. You d whip one of them if / 
caught reading a book. They are held in bondage, 
generation after generation, deprived of mental im 
provement, and who can expect them to possess much 
knowledge ? If they are not brought down to a level 
with the brute creation, you slaveholders will never 
be blamed for it. If they av3 baboons, or stand no 



268 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

higher in the scale of intelligence than such animals, 
you and men like you will have to answer for it. 
There s a sin, a fearful sin, resting on this nation, that 
will not go unpunished forever. There will be a 
reckoning yet yes, Epps, there s a day coming that 
will burn as an oven. It may be sooner or it may be 
later, but it s a coming as sure as the Lord is just." 

" If you lived up among the Yankees in New- 
England," said Epps, " I expect you d be one of them 
cursed fanatics that know more than the constitution, 
and go about peddling clocks and coaxing niggers 
to run away." 

"If I was in New-England," returned Bass, "I 
would be just what I am here. I would say that 
Slavery was an iniquity, and ought to be abolished. 
I would say there was no reason nor justice in the 
law, or the constitution that allows one man to hold 
another man in bondage. It would be hard for you 
to lose your property, to be sure, but it wouldn t be 
half as hard as it would be to lose your liberty. You 
have no more right to your freedom, in exact justice, 
than Uncle Abram yonder. Talk about black skin, 
and black blood ; why, how many slaves are there on 
this bayou as white as either of us ? And what dif 
ference is there in the color of the soul ? Pshaw ! the 
whole system is as absurd as it is cruel. You may 
own niggers and behanged, but I wouldn t own one 
for the befet plantation in Louisiana." 

" You like to hear yourself talk, Bass, better than 
ai v man I know of. You would argue that black was 



CONVERSATION WITH BASS. 

, or white black, if any body would contradict 
yon. Nothing suits you in this world, and I don t 
believe you will be satisfied with the next, if you 
should have your choice in them." 

Conversations substantially like the foregoing were 
not unusual between the two after this ; Epps drawing 
him out more for the purpose of creating a laugh at 
his expense, than with a view of fairly discussing the 
merits of the question. He looked upon Bass, as a 
man ready to say anything merely for the pleasure of 
hearing his own voice ; as somewhat self-conceited, 
perhaps, contending against his faith and judgment, 
?n order, simply, to exhibit his dexterity in argumen 
tation. 

He remained at Epps through the summer, visiting 
Marksville generally once a fortnight. The more I 
saw of him, the more I became convinced he was a 
man in whom I could confide. Nevertheless, my 
previous ill-fortune had taught me to be extremely 
cautious. It was__not my place to speak to a white 
injjxcept when spoken to. buFToraitted no oppor- 
lity of throwing myself in his way, and endeavored 
istantly in every possible manner to attract his 
ention. In the early part of August he and my 
self were at work alone in the house, the other car 
penters having left, and Epps being absent in the 
field. Now was the time, if ever, to broach the sub 
ject, and I resolved to do it, and submit to whatever 
consequences might ensue. We were busily at work 
in the afternoon, when I stopped suddenly and said 



270 TWELVE YEAPJ3 A SLAVE. % 

" Master Base, I want to ask you what pare o) Jit 
country yon came from ?" 

" Why. Platt, what put that into your head ? " he 
answered. " You wouldn t know if I should tell you. 
After a moment or two he added "I was born in 
Canada ; now guess where that is." 

" Oh, I Know where Canada is," said I, " I have 
been there myself." 

" Yes, 1 expect yon are well acquainted all through 
that country," he remarked, laughing incredulously. 

" As sure as I live, Master Bass," I replied, " I have 
been there. I have been in Montreal and Kingston, 
and Queercston, and a great many places in Canada, 
and I have been in York State, too in Buffalo, and 
Rochester, and Albany, and can tell yon the names 
of the villages on the Erie canal and the Champlain 
canal." 

Bass turned round and gazed at me a long time 
without uttering a syllable. 

"How came you here?" he inquired, at length, 
"Master Bass," I answered, "if justice had been 
done, I never would have been here." 

" Weil, How s this ? " said he. " "Who are you ? You 
have been in Canada sure enough ; I know all the 
places you mention. How did you happen to get 
here ? oome, tell me all about it. 

" I have no friends here, 1 was my reply, " that I 
can put commence in. I am afraid to tell you, 
though I don t believe you would tell Master Epps if 
I should." 



271 

^He assured me earnestly lie would keep every word 
I might speak to him a profound secret, and his cun 
osity was evidently strongly excited. It was a long 
story, I informed him, and would take some time tn 
relate it. Master Epps would be back soon, but if op 
would see me that night after all were asleep, I would 
repeat it to him. He consented readily to the ar 
rangement, and directed me to come into the building 
where we were then at work, and I would fine liim 
there. About midnight, when all was still and q.i et 
I crept cautiously from my cabin, and silently envev* 
ing the unfinished building, found him awaiting me, 

After further assurances on his part that I shouJ 
not be betrayed, I began a relation of the history of 
my life and misfortunes. He was deeply interested- 
asking numerous questions in reference to localities 
and events. Having ended my story I besought hi 
to write to some of my friends at the North, acquaint 
ing them with my situation, and begging them to for 
ward free papers, or take such steps as they misrh^: 
consider proper to secure my release. He promised 
to do so, but dwelt upon the danger of such an ac^V 
case of detection, and now impressed upon me the 
great necessity of strict silence and secresy. Befo 
we parted our plan of operation was arranged. 

We agreed to meet the next night at a specified 
place among the high weeds on the bank of the bayou 
some distance from master s dwelling. There he wa? 
to write down on paper the names and address of sev 
oral persons, old friends in the North, to whom h 







272 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

would direct letters during his next visit to Marks- 
ville. It was not deemed prudent to meet in the new 
house, inasmuch as the light it would be necessary to 

/use might possibly be discovered. In the course of 
the day I managed to obtain a few matches and a 
piece of candle, unperceived, from the kitchen, during 
a temporary absence of Aunt Pliebe. Bass had pen- 

v cil and paper in his tool chest. 

^drllie appointed hour we met on the bayou bank, 
and creeping among the high weeds, I lighted the 
candle, while he drew forth pencil and paper and pre 
pared for business. I gave him the names of Wil- 
/ liana Perry, Cephas Parker and Judge Marvin, all of 
HSaratoga Springs, Saratoga county, New- York. I had 
been employed by the latter in the United States 
Plotel, and had transacted business with the former to 
a considerable extent, and trusted that at least one of 
them would be still living at that place. He care 
fully wrote the names, and then remarked, thought- 
fully- 

" It is so many years since you left Saratoga, all 
these men may be dead, or may have removed. You 
say you obtained papers at the custom house in New- 
York. Probably there is a record of them there, and 
I think it would be well to write and ascertain." 

I agreed with him, and again repeated the circum 
stances related heretofore, connected with my visit t* 
the custom house with Brown and Hamilton. We 
lingered on the bank of the bayou an hour or more, 
conversing upon the subject which now ergrossed ou* 



MY FAITH IN BASS. 273 

thoughts. I could no longer doubt his fidelity, and 
freely spoke to him of the many sorrows I had borne 
in silence, and so long. I spoke of my wife and chi- 1 - 
dren, mentioning their names and ages, and dwelling 
upon the unspeakable happiness it would be to clasp 
them to my heart once more before I died. I caught-^ 
him by the hand, and with tears and passionate en 
treaties implored him to befriend me to restore me 
to my kindred and to liberty promising I would weary 
Heaven the remainder of my life with prayers that it 
would bless and prosper him. In the enjoyment of 
freedom surrounded by the associations of youth, 
and restored to the bosom of my family that prom 
ise is not yet forgotten, noi shall it ever be so long as 
I have strength to raise my imploring eyes on high. 

" Oh, blessings on his kindly voice and on his silver hair, 
Arid blessings on his whole life long, until he meet me there." 

He overwhelmed me with assurances of friendship 
and faithfulness, saying he had never before taken so 
deep an interest in the fate of any one. He spoke of 
himself in a somewhat mournful tone, as a lonely 
man, a wanderer about the. world that he was 
growing old, and must soon reach the end of hia 
earthly journey, and lie down to his final rest with- x 
out kith or kin to mourn for him, or to remember \ 
him that his life was of little value to himself, and 
henceforth should be devoted to the accomplishment I 
of my liberty, and to an unceasing warfare against - f 
the accursed shame of Slavery. 

L* 18 



274 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 



After this time we seldom spoke to, or recognized 
each other. He was, moreover, less free in his con 
versation with Epps on the subject of Slavery. The 
remotest suspicion that there was any unusual intima 
cy any secret understanding between us never 
once entered the mind of Epps, or any other person, 
white or black, on the plantation. 

I am often asked, with an air of^increjLulityjJiow I 
lucceeded so many years in keeping from my daily 
ind constant companions the knowledge of my true 
e and history^ The terrible lesson Burch taught 
me, impressed indelibly upon my mind the danger 
and uselessness of asserting I was a freeman. There 
was no possibility of any slave being able to assist 
me, while, on the other hand, there was a possibility 
of his exposing me. When it is recollected the whole 
current of my thoughts, for twelve years, turned to the 
contemplation of escape, it will not be wondered at, 
that I was always cautious and on my guard. It 
would have been an act of folly to have proclaimed 
my right to freedom ; it would only have subjected 
me to severer scrutiny probably have consigned me 
to some more distant and inaccessible region than 
even Bayou Boeuf. Edwin Epps was a person utter 
ly regardless of a black man s rights or wrongs ut- 

ly destitute of any natural sense of justice, as 1 
well knew. It was important, therefore, not only as 
regarded my hope of deliverance, but also as regard 
ed the few personal priviliges I was permitted to eu 
joy, to keep from him the history of my life. 



LETTER TO PEKRY A^D PAKKER. 275 

The Saturday night subsequent to our interview at 
the water s edge, Bass went home to Marksville. The 
next day, being Sunday, he employed himself in his 
own room writing letters. One he direct*"^ to the 
Collector of Customs at New- York, anothf r tj Judge 
Marvin, and another to Messrs. Parker ac/i Voiry joint 
ly. The latter was the one which led if /.y recovery. 
He subscribed my true name, but in fr t postscript in 
timated I was not the writer. The V t .er itself shows 
that he considered himself engagyi in a dangerous 
undertaking no less than rumnn& "the risk of his 
life, if detected." I did not sev the letter before it was 
mailed, but have since obtai A><? a copy, which is here 
inserted : 

"Bwou Bceuf, August 15, 1852 
" Mr. WILLIAM PERRY or Mr. CEPHAS PARKER : 

" Gentlemen It having been a long time since I have seen 
or heard from you, and not knowing that you are living, it is 
with incertainty that I write to you, but the necessity of the 
case must be my excuse. 

" Having been born free, just across the river from you, I am 
certain you must know me, and I am here now a slave. I wish 
you to obtain free papers for me, and forward them to rne at 
Marksville, Louisiana, Parish of Avoyelles, and oblige 

" Yours, SOLOMON NORTHUP. 

" The way I came to be a slave, I was taken sick in Washing 
ton City, and was insensible for some time. When I recover 
ed my reason, 1 was robbed of my free-papers, and in irons on 
ny way to this State, and have never been able to get any one 
to write for me until now ; and he that is writing for me runs 
the risk of his life if detected." 



276 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

The allusion to myself in the work recently issued, 
entitled " A Key to Uncle Tom s Cabin," contains the 
first part of this letter, omitting the postscript. Nei 
ther are the full names of the gentlemen to whom it 
is directed correctly stated, there being a slight dis- 
A crepancy, probably a typographical error. To the 
postscript more than to the body of the communica 
tion am I indebted for my liberation, as will present 
ly be seen. 

When Bass returned from Marksville he informed 
/ me of what he had done. We continued our mid- 
/ night consultations, never speaking to each other 
through the day, excepting as it was necessary about 
the work. As nearly as he was able to ascertain, it 
\ would require two weeks for the letter to reach Sara- 
l toga in due course of mail, and the same length of 
\ time for an answer to return. Within six weeks, at 
the farthest, we concluded, an answer would arrive, if 
it arrived at all. A great many suggestions were 
now made, and a great deal of conversation took place 
between us, as to the most safe and proper course to 
pursue on receipt of the free "papers. They would 
stand between him and harm, in case we were over- 
4&ken and arrested leaving the country altogether. It 
would be no infringement of law, however much it 
might provoke individual hostility, to assist a freeman 
regain his freedom. 



At the end of four weeks he was again at Marks 
ville, but no answer had arrived. I was sorely disap 
pointed, but still reconciled myself with the reflection 



BASS ENDEAVORS TO CHEER ME. 277 

that sufficient length of time had not yet elapsed 
that there might have been delays and that I could 
not reasonably expect one so soon. Six, seven, eight, 
and ten weeks passed by, however, and nothing came. 
I was in a fever of suspense whenever Bass visited 
Marksville, and could scarcely close my eyes until his 
return. Finally my master s house was finished, and 
the time came when Bass must leave me. The night 
before his departure I was wholly given up to despair. 
I had clung to him as a drowning man clings to the 
floating spar, knowjng if it slips from his grasp he 
must forever sink beneath the waves. The all-glorious 
hope, upon which I had laid such eager hold, was 
crumbling to ashes in my hands. I felt as if sinking 
down, down, amidst the bitter waters of Slavery, from 
the unfathomable depths of which I should never 
rise^again. 

The generous heart of my friend and benefactor was 
touched with pity at the sight of my distress. He en 
deavored to cheer me up, promising to return the day 
before Christmas, and if no intelligence was received 
in the meantime, some further step would be under 
taken to effect our design. He exhorted me to keep 
up my spirits to rely upon his continued efforts in 
my behalf, assuring me, in most earnest and impres 
sive language, that my liberation should, from thence 
forth, be the chief object of his thoughts. 
^In his absence the time passed slowly indeed. I 
looked forward to Christmas with intense anxiety and 
impatience. I had about given up the expectation of 



278 TWELVE YEAH8 A SLAVE. 

receiving any answer to the letters. They might have 
miscarried, or might have been misdirected. Perhaps 
those at Saratoga, to whom they had been addressed, 
were all dead ; perhaps, engaged in their pursuits, 
they did not consider the fate of an obscure, unhappy 
black man of sufficient importance to be noticed. 
whole reliance was in Bass. The faith I had in him 
was continually re-assuring me, and enabled me to 
stand up against the tide of disappointment that had 
overwhelmed me. 

So wholly was I absorbed in reflecting upon my sit 
uation and prospects, that the hands with whom I la 
bored in the field often observed it. Patsey would 
ask me if I was sick, and Uncle Abram, and Bob, and 
Wiley frequently expressed a curiosity to know what 
I could be thinking about so steadily. But I evaded 
their inquiries with some light remark, and kept my 
thoughts locked closely in my breast. 



CHAPTER IX. 

AM FAITHFUL *O *tl >f<"RP HIS ARRIVAL ON CHRISTMAS EVE TH TfTT- 

FICULTY OF OBTAINING AN INTERVIEW THE MEETING IN THE CABIN 

NON-ARRIVAL OF THE l,rfTEK BASS ANNOUNCES HIS INTENTION TO PRO 
CEED NORTH CHRISTMAS CONVERSATION BETWEEN EPPS AND BASS 

YOUNG MISTRESS M COY, /HE BEAUTY OF BAYOU BO2UF THE " NE PLUS 

ULTRA" OF DINNERS MUSIC AND DANCING PRESENCE OF THE MISTRESS 
HER EXCEEDING BEAUTY THE LAST SLAVE DANCE WILLIAM FIERCE 

OVERSLEEP M YSELF THE V AST WHIPPING DESPONDENCY THE COLD 

MORNING EPPS THREATS IRE PASSING CARRIAGE STRANGERS AP 

PRO ACHING THROUGH THE COt HM -FIELD LAST HOUR ON BAYOU BCECF. 

FAITHFUL to his word, the day before Christmas, just 
at night-fall, Bass came riding into the yard. 

" How are you," said Epps, shaking him by the 
hand, " glad to see you." 

He would not have been very glad had he known 
the object of his errand. 

" Quite well, quite well," answered Bass. " Had 
some business out on the bayou, and concluded to call 
and see you, and stay over night." 

Epps ordered one of the slaves to take charge of 
his horse, and with much talk and laughter they pass 
ed into the house together ; not, however, until Bass 
Vad looked at me significantly, as much as to say, 



280 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

"Iteep dark, we understand each other." It was ten 
o clock at night before the labors of the day were per 
formed, when I entered the cabin. At that time Un 
cle Abrarn and Bob occupied it with me. I laid 
down upon my board and feigned I was asleep. 
When my companions had Mien into a profound 
V slumber, I moved stealthily out of the door, and watch 
ed, and listened attentively for some sign or sound 
from Bass. There I stood until long after midnight, 
but nothing could be seen or heard. As I suspected, 
he dared not leave the house, through fear of exciting 
the suspicion of some of the family. I judged, correct- 
^y, he would rise earlier than was his custom, and 
take the opportunity of seeing me before Epps was 
up. Accordingly I aroused Uncle Abram an hour 
sooner than usual, and sent him into the house to build 
a fire, which, at that season of the year, is a part of 
Uncle Abram s duties. 

I also gave Bob a violent shake, and asked him if 
he intended to sleep till noon, saying master would be 
up before the mules were fed. He knew right well 
the consequence that would follow such an event, and, 
jumping to his feet, was at the horse-pasture in ? 
twinkling. 

Presently, when both were gone, Bass slipped into 
the cabin. 

" No letter yet, Platt," said he. The announce 
tnent fell upon my heart like lead. 

" Oh, do write again, Master Bass," I cried ; * 1 
will give you the names of a great many I know. 



THE MEETING IN THE CABIN. 281 

Surely they are not all dead. Surely some one will 
pity me." 

" No use," Bass replied, "no use. I have made ujT"; 
my mind to that. I fear the Marksville post-master 
will mistrust something, I have inquired so often at | 
his office. Too uncertain too dangerous." 

" Then it is all over," I exclaimed. " Oh, my God, 
how can I end my days here !" 

" You re not going to end them here," he said, " un 
less you die very soon. I ve thought this matter all 
over, and have come to a determination. There are 
more ways than one to manage this business, and a 
better and surer way than writing letters. I have a 
job or two on hand which can be completed by March 
or April. By that time I shall have a considerable 
sum of money, and then, Platt, I am going to Sarato 
ga myself." 

I could scarcely credit my own senses as the words 
fell from his lips. But he assured me, in a manner 
that left no doubt of the sincerity of his intention, that 
if his life was spared until spring, he should certainly 
undertake the journey. 

" I have lived in this region long enough," he con 
tinued ; " I may as well be in one place as another. 
For a long time I have been thinking of going bacli 

once more to the place where I was born. I m tired , 
1 

of Slavery as well as you. If I can succeed in getting \ 
you away from here, it wall be a good act that I shall/ 
like to think of all my life. And I shall succeed. 



282 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

Platt ; I m bound to do it. Now let me tell you what 
I want. Epps will be up soon, and it won t do to be 
caught here. Think of a great many men at Sarato 
ga and Sandy Hill, and in that neighborhood, who 
once knew you. I shall make excuse to come here 
again in the course of the winter, when I will write 
down their names. I will then know who to call on 
when I go north. Think of all you can. Cheer up ! 
Don t be discouraged. I m with you, life or death. 
Good-bye. God bless you," and saying this he left 
the cabin quickly, and entered the great house. 
^3 It was Christmas morning the happiest day in the 
whole year for the slave. That morning lienieecTnot 
hurry to the field, with his gourd and col ton-bag. 
Happiness sparkled in the eyes and overspread the 
countenances of all. The time of feasting and dancing 
had come. The cane and cotton fields were deserted. 
That day the clean dress was to be donned the red 
ribbon displayed ; there were to be re-unions, and 
joy and laughter, and hurrying to and fro. It was 
; to be a day of liberty among the children of Slavery. 
"Wherefore they were happy, and rejoiced. 
^STter breakfast Epps and Bass sauntered about the 
yard, conversing upon the price of cotton, and va 
rious other topics. 

" Where do your niggers hold Christmas ?" Bass in 
quired. 

Piatt is going to Tanners to-day. His fiddle is 
great demand. They want him at Marshall s Mon- 



EPPS COVEKSATION WITH BASS. 283 

day, and Miss Mary McCoy, on the old Norwood 
plantation, writes me a note that she wants him to 
play for her niggers Tuesday." 

" He is rather a smart boy, ain t he ?" said Bass. 
" Come here, Platt," he added, looking at me as 1 
walked up to them, as if he had never thought before 
to take any special notice of me. 

" Yes," replied Epps, taking hold of my arm and 
feeling it, " there isn t a bad joint in him. There ain t 
a boy on the bayou worth more than he is perfect 
ly sound, and no bad tricks. D n him, he isn t like 
other niggers ; doesn t look like em don t act like 
em. I was offered seventeen hundred dollars for him 
last week." 

" And didn t take it ?" Bass inquired, with an air 
of surprise. 

" Take it no ; devilish clear of it. Why, he s a 
reg lar genius ; can make a plough beam, wagon 
tongue anything, as well as you can. Marshall 
wanted to put up one of his niggers agin him and raf 
fle for them, but I told him I would see the devil have 
him first." 

" I don t see anything remarkable about him," Bass 
observed. 

" Why, just feel of him, now," Epps rejoined. 
" You don t see a boy very often put together any 
closer than he is. He s a thin-skin d cuss, and won t 
bear as much whipping as some ; but he s got the 
muscle in him, and no mistake. 

Bass felt of me, turned me round, and made a 



284 TWELVE YEAKS A SLAVE. 

thorough examination, Epps all the while dwelling on 
my good points. But his visitor seemed to take but 
little interest finally in the subject, and consequently 
it was dropped. Bass soon departed, giving me an 
other sly look of recognition and significance, as he 
trotted out of the yard. 

When he was gone I obtained a pass, and started 
for Tanner s not Peter Tanner s, of whom mention 
has previously been made, but a relative of his. I 
played during the day and most of the night, spend 
ing the next day, Sunday, in my cabin. Monday I 
crossed the bayou to Douglas Marshall s, all Epps 
slaves accompanying me, and on Tuesday went to the 
old Norwood place, which is the third plantation 
above Marshall s, on the same side of the water. 

This estate is now owned by Miss Mary McCoy, a 
lovely girl, some twenty years of age. She is the beau 
ty and the glory of Bayou Boeuf. She owns about a 
hundred working hands, besides a great many house 
servants, yard boys, and young children. Her broth 
er-in-law, who resides on the adjoining estate, is her 
general agent. She is beloved by all her slaves, and 
good reason indeed have they to be thankful that they 
have fallen into such gentle hands. Nowhere on the 
bayou are there such feasts, such merrymaking, as at 
yoroig Madam McCoy s. Thither, more than to any 
other place, do the old and the young for miles around 
love to repair in the time of the Christmas holidays ; 
for nowhere else can they find such delicious repasts; 
nowhere else can they hear a voice speaking to them 



CHRISTMAS DESTNEK. 285 

so pleasantly. No one is so well beloved no one 
fills so large a space in the hearts of a thousand slaves, 
as young Madam McCoy, the orphan mistress, of the 
old Norwood estate. 

On my arrival at her place, I found two or three 
hundred had assembled. The table was prepared in 
a long building, which she had erected expressly for 
her slaves to dance in. It was covered with -every 
variety of food the country afforded, and was pro 
nounced by general acclamation to be the rarest of 
dinners. Roast turkey, pig, chicken, duck, and all 
kinds of meat, baked, boiled, and broiled, formed a 
line the whole length of the extended table, while the 
vacant spaces were filled with tarts, jellies, and frost 
ed cake, and pastry of many kinds. The young mis 
tress walked around the table, smiling and saying a 
kind word to each one, and seemed to enjoy the scene 
v exceedingly. 

"^> yWlien the dinner was over the tables were remov 
ed to make room for the dancers. I tuned my violin 
and struck up a lively air ; while some joined in a 
/nimble reel, others patted and sang their simple but 
melodious songs, filling the great room with music 
\mingled with the sound of human voices and the clat- 
fter of many feet. 

TrTthe evening the mistress returned, and stood in 
the door a long time, looking at us. She was magnifi 
cently arrayed. Her dark hair and eyes contrasted 
strongly with her clear and delicate complexion. 
Her form was slender but commanding, and her 



286 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

movement was a combination of unaffected 
and grace. (As she stood there, clad in her rich ap 
parel, her face animated with pleasure, I thought I had 
never looked upon a human being Jhalf ^SD beautiful. 
I dwell with delight upon the description of this fair 
and gentle lady, not only because she inspired me 
with emotions of gratitude and admiration, but be 
cause I would have the reader understand that all 
slave-owners on Bayou Boeuf are not like Epps, 01 
Tibeats, or Jim Burns. Occasionally can be found, 
rarely it may be, indeed, a good man like William 
Ford, or an angel of kindness like young Mistress 
McCoy. 

..Tuesday concluded the three holidayaJEpps .yearly 
allowed us. On my way home, Wednesday morning, 
while passing the plantation of William Pierce, that 
gentleman hailed me, saying he had received a line 
from Epps, brought down by William Yarnell, per 
mitting him to detain me for the purpose of playing 
for his slaves that night. It was the last time I was 
destined to witness a slave dance on the shores of Ba 
you Boeuf. The party at Pierce s continued their jol 
lification until broad daylight, when I returned to my 
master s house, somewhat wearied with the loss of 
rest, but rejoicing in the possession of numerous bits 
and picayunes, which the whites, who were pleased 
with my musical performances, had contributed. 

On Saturday morning, for the first time in years, I 
. overslept myself. I was frightened on coming out of 
(Jhe cabin to find the slaves were already in the field 



THE LAST WHIPPING. 287 

They had preceded me some fifteen minutes. Leav 
ing my dinner and water-gourd, I hurried after them 
as fast as I could move. It was not yet sunrise, but 
Epps was on the piazza as I left the hut, and cried out 
to me that it was a pretty time of day to be getting 
up. By extra exertion my row was up when he came 
out after breakfast. This, however, was no excuse for 
the offence of oversleeping. Bidding me strip and lie 
down, he gave me ten or fifteen lashes, at the conclu- 

(? O / 

sion of which he inquired if I thought, after that, I 

could get up sometime in the morning. I expressed 
myself quite positively that I could, and, with back 
< stinging with pain, went about my work. 
""The following day, Sunday, my thoughts were upon 
Bass, and the probabilities and hopes which hung 
upon his action and determination. I considered the 
uncertainty of life ; that if it should be the will of 
God that he should die, my prospect of deliverance, and 
all expectation of happiness in this world, would be 
wholly ended and destroyed. My sore back, perhaps, 
did not have a tendency to render me unusually cheer 
ful. I felt down-hearted and unhappy all day long, 
and when I laid down upon the hard board at night, 
my heart was oppressed with such a load of grief, it 
seemed that it must break. 

Monday morning, the third of January, 1853, we 
were in the field betimes. It was a raw, cold morn 
ing, such as is unusual in that region. I was in ad 
vance, Uncle Abram next to me, behind him Bob, 
Fatsey and Wiley, with -our cotton-bags about our 



288 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

necks. Epps happened, (a rare thing, indeed,) to come 
out that morning without his whip. lie swore, in a 
manner that would shame a pirate, that we were do 
ing nothing. Bob ventured to say that his lingers 
were so numb with cold he couldn t pick fast. Epps 
cursed himself for not having brought his rawhide, 
and declared that when lie came out again he would 
warm us well ; yes, he would make us all hotter than 
that fiery realm in which I am sometimes compelled 
to believe he will himself eventually reside. 

With these fervent expressions, he left us. When 
out of hearing, we commenced talking to each other, 
saying how hard it was to be compelled to keep up 
our tasks with numb fingers ; how unreasonable mas 
ter was, and speaking of him generally in no flatter 
ing terms. Our conversation was interrupted by a 
carriage passing rapidly towards the house . Looking 
up, we saw two men approaching us through the cot 
ton-field. 

****** * * 

Having now brought down this narrative to the last 
hour I was to spend on Bayou Boeuf having got 
ten through my last cotton picking, and about to bid 
Master Epps farewell I must beg the reader to go 
back with me to the month of August ; to follow Bass 
letter on its long journey to Saratoga; to learn the 
effect it produced and that, while I was repining 
and despairing in the slave hut of Edwin Epps, 
through the friendship of Bass and the goodness of 
Providence, all things were working together for m^ 
deliverance. 



CHAPTER XXI. 



TOE TETTER REACHES SARATOGA IS FORWARDED TO ANNE IS LAID Bl- 

rORE HENRY B. NORTHUP THE STATUTE OF MAY 14, 1840 ITS PRO 
VISIONS ANNE S MEMORIAL TO THE GOVERNOR THE AFFIDAVITS AC 
COMPANYING IT SENATOR SOULE s LETTER DEPARTURE OF THE AGENT 

APPOINTED BY THE GOVERNOR ARRIVAL AT MARKSVILLE THE HON. 

JOHN P. WADDILL THE CONVERSATION ON NEW-YORK POLITICS IT 

SUGGESTS A FORTUNATE IDEA THE MEETING WITH BASS THE SECRET 

OUT LEGAL PROCEEDINGS INSTITUTED DEPARTURE OF NORTHUP AND 

THE SHERIFF FROM MARKSVILLE FOR BAYOU BOEUF ARRANGEMENTS* ON 

THE WAY REACH EPPS* PLANTATION DISCOVER HIS SLAVES IN THE 

COTTON FIELD THE MEETING THE FAREWELL. 



I AM indebted to Mr. Henry B. Nbrthup and oth 
ers for many of the particulars contained in this 
chapter. 

The letter written by Bass, directed to Parker and 
Perry, and which was deposited in the post-office in 
Marksville on the 15th day of August, 1852, arrived 
at Saratoga in the early part of September. Some 
time previous to this, Anne had removed to Glens 
Falls, Warren county, where she had charge of the 
kitchen in Carpenter s Hotel. She kept house, how 
ever, lodging with our children, and was only absent: 
from them during such time as the discharge of her 
duties in the hotel required. 

M 19 



29C TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

Messrs. Parker and Perry, on receipt of the letter 
forwarded it immediately to Anne. On reading it 
the children were all excitement, and without delay 
hastened to the neighboring village of Sandy Hill, 
to consult Henry B. Northup, and obtain his advice 
and assistance in the matter. 

~ Upon examination, that gentleman found among 
/the statutes of the State an act providing for the re- 
jcovery of free citizens from slavery. It was passed 
/May 14, 1840, and is entitled "An act more effectu- 
/ ally to protect the free citizens of this State from 
being kidnapped or reduced to slavery." It provides 
that it shall be the duty of the Governor, upon the re 
ceipt of satisfactory information that any free citizen or 
inhabitant of this State, is wrongfully held in another 
State or Territory of the United States, upon the al 
legation or pretence that such person is a slave, or 
by color of any usage or rule of law is deemed or 
taken to be a slave, to take such measures to procure 
the restoration of such person to liberty, as he shall 
deem necessary. And to that end, he is authorized 
to appoint and employ an agent, and directed to fur 
nish him with such credentials and instructions as will 
be likely to accomplish the object of his appointment. 
It requires the agent so appointed to proceed to col 
lect the proper proof to establish the right of such 
person to his freedom ; to perform such journeys, take 
such measures, institute such legal proceedings, &c., 
as may be necessary to return such person to this 
State, and charges all expenses incurred in carrying 



ANNE 8 MEMORIAL TO THE GOVERNOR. 291 

the act into effect, upon moneys not otherwise ap 
propriated in the treasury.* 

It was necessary to establish two facts to the satis 
faction of the Governor : First, that I was a free citi- 
zen of New- York ; and secondly* ihalJLw^aa wrong 
fully held in bondage. As to the first point, there 
was no difficulty, all the older inhabitants in the vi 
cinity being ready to testify to it. The second point 
rested entirely upon the letter to Parker and Perry, 
written in an unknown hand, and upon the letter pen 
ned on board the brig Orleans, which, unfortunately, 
had been mislaid or lost. 

A memorial was prepared, directed to his excellen 
cy, Governor Hunt, setting forth her marriage, my 
departure to Washington city ; the receipt of the let 
ters ; that I was a free citizen, and such other facts as 
were deemed important, and was signed and verified 
by Anne. Accompanying this memorial were sever 
al affidavits of prominent citizens of Sandy Hill and 
Fort Edward, corroborating fullv the statements it 

O */ 

contained, and also a request of several well known 
gentlemen to the Governor, that Henry B. Northup 
be appointed agent under the legislative act. 

On reading the memorial and affidavits, his excel 
lency took a lively interest in the matter, and on the 
23d day of November, 1852, under the seal of the 
State, " constituted, appointed and employed Henry 
13. Northup, Esq., an agent, with full power to effect 
my restoration, and to take such measures as would 

* See Appendix A. 



292 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

ue most liktjiy u> accomplish it, and instructing him 
to proceed to Louisiana with all convenient dispatch.* 

The pressing natu" of Mr. Northup s professional 
and political engagements delayed his departure un 
til 7 )ecember. On the fourteenth day of that month 
tie Jeft Sandy Hill, and proceed vi to Washington. 
The Hon. Pierre Soule, Senator in Congress from Lou 
isiana, Hon. Mr. Conrad, Secretary of War, and 
Judge Kelson, of the Supreme Court of the United 
States, upon hearing a statement of the Facts, and ex 
amining his commission, and certified copies of the 
memorial and affidavits, furnished him with open let 
ters to gentlemen in Louisiana, strongly urging their 
assistance in accomplishing the object, of his ap- 
Domtment. 

Senator Soule especially interested himself in the 
matter, insisting, in forcible language, that it was the 
duty and interest of every planter in his State to aid 
m restoring me to freedom, and trusted the sentiments 
of honor arid justice in the bosom of every citizen of 
the commonwealth would enlist him at once in my 
behalf. Having obtained these valuable letters, Mr. 
North up returned to Baltimore, and proceeded from 
tlience to Pittsburgh. It was his original intention, 
under advice of friends at Washington, to go directly 
to New Orleans, and consult the authorities of that 
city. Providentially, however, on arriving at the 
mouth of Red River, he changed his mind. Had lie 
Continued on. he would not have met vv th Bass, in 

*See Appendix B. 



ARRIVAL AT MARKSVILLE. 292 

which oase tlie search for me would probably have 
been fruitless. 

Taking passage on the first steamer that arrived 
he pursued his journey up Red River, a sluggish, 
winding stream, flowing through a vast region of 
primitive forests and impenetrable swamps, almost 
wholly destitute of inhabitants. About nine o clock in 
the forenoon, January 1st, 1853, he left the steamboat 
at Marksville, and proceeded directly to Marks ville 
Court House, a small village four miles in the interior. 

From the fact that the letter to Messrs. Parker and 
Perry was post-marked at Marksville, it was supposed 
by him that I was in that place or its immediate vi 
cinity. On reaching this town, he at once laid his 
business before the Hon. John P. Waddill, a legal 
gentleman of distinction, and a man of fine genius 
and most noble impulses. After reading the letters 
and documents presented him, and listening to a rep 
resentation of the circumstances under which I had 
been carried away into captivity, Mr. Waddill at 
once proffered his services, and entered into the af 
fair with great zeal and earnestness. He, in common 
with others of like elevated character, looked upon 
the kidnapper with abhorrence. The title of his fel 
low parishioners and clients to the property which 
constituted the larger proportion of their wealth, not 
only depended upon the good faith in which slave 
sales were transacted, but he was a man in whose 
honorable heart emotions of indignation were aroused 
by such an instance of injustice 



294. TWELVE YEARS A 8LAY. 

Marksville, although occupying a prominent posi 
tion, and standing out in impressive italics on the 
map of Louisiana, is, in fact, but a small and insig 
nificant hamlet. Aside from the tavern, kept by a 
jolly and generous boniface, the court house, inhabi 
ted by lawless cows and swine in the seasons of va 
cation, and a high gallows, with its dissevered rope 
dangling in the air, there is little to attract the at 
tention of .the stranger. 

Solomon Northup was a name Mr. Waddill had 
never heard, but he was confident that if there was 
a slave bearing that appellation in Marksville or vi 
cinity, his black boy Tom would know him. Tom 
was accordingly called, but in all his extensive cir 
cle of acquaintances there was no such personage. 

The letter to Parker and Perry was dated at Bayou 
Boeuf. At this place, therefore, the conclusion was, 
{ must be sought. But here a difficulty suggested 
itself, of a very grave character indeed. Bayou Boeuf, 
at its m arest point, was twenty-three miles distant, 
and was the name applied to the section of country 
extending between fifty and a hundred miles, on 
both sides of that stream. Thousands and thousands 
of slaves resided upon its shores, the remarkable 
richness and fertility of the soil having attracted 
thither a great number of planters. The information 
in the letter was so vague and indefinite as to render 
it difficult to conclude upon any specific course of 
proceeding. It was finally determined, however, as 
the only plan that presented any prospect of success, 



NEW-YORK POLITICS. 995 

that JNorthup and the brother of Waddill, a student 
in the office of the latter, should repair to the Bayou, 
ind traveling up one side and down the other its 
whole length, inquire at each plantation for me. Mr. 
Waddill tendered the use of his carriage, and it was 
definitely arranged that they should start upon the 
3xcursion early Monday morning. 

it will be seen at once that this course, in all prob 
ability, would have resulted unsuccessfully. It would 
have been impossible for them to have gone into the 
fields and examine all the gangs at work. They 
were not aware that I was known only as Platt ; anc 1 
had they inquired of Epps himself, he would ha\8 
stated truly that he knew nothing of Solomon 
JS orthup. 

The arrangement being adopted, however, there 
was nothing further to be done until Sunday had 
elapsed. The conversation between Messrs. Northup 
and Waddill, in the course of the afternoon, turned 
upon ~N"ew-York politics. 

I can scarcely comprehend the nice distinc 
tions and shades of political parties in your State," 
observed Mr. Waddill. " I read of soft-shells and 
ftard-shells, hunkers and barnburners, woolly-heads 
and silver-grays, and am unable to understand the 
precise difference between them. Pray, what is it ?" 

Mr. Korthup, re-filling his pipe, entered into quite 
an elaborate narrative of the origin of the various 
sections of parties, and concluded by saying there was 
another party ii> New-1 ork, known as free-soil ers or 



296 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

abolitionists. " You have seen none of those in thin 
part of the country, I presume ?" Mr. JSTorthup re 
marked 

* Never, but one," answered Waddill, laughingly. 
" We have one here in Marksville, an eccentric crea 
ture, who preaches abolitionism as vehemently as any 
fanatic at the North. He is a generous, inoffensive 
man, but always maintaining the wrong side of an 
argument. It affords us a deal of amusement. He 
is an excellent mechanic, and almost indispensable in 
this community. He is a carpenter. His name is 
Bass." 

Some further good-natured conversation was had at 
the expense of Bass peculiarities, when Waddill all 
at once fell into a reflective mood, and asked for the 
mysterious letter again. 

"Let me see 1-e-t m-e s-e-e !" he repeated, 
thoughtfully to himself, running his eyes over the let 
ter once more. " Bayou Boeuf, August 15. August 
15 post-marked here. He that is writing for me J 
Where did Bass work last summer?" he inquired, 
turning suddenly to his brother. His brother was 
unable to inform him, but rising, left the office, and 
soon returned with the intelligence that " Bass work 
ed last summer somewhere on Bayou Boeuf." 

" He is the man," bringing down his hand emphat 
ically on the table, "who can tell us all about Sol 
omon Northup," exclaimed Waddill. 

Bass was immediately searched for, but could not 
be found. After some inquiry, it was ascertained be 



THE MEETING WITH BASS. 297 

at the lauding on Bed River. Procuring a con- 
7eyance, jouug "Waddill and Northup werj not long 
in traversing the few miles to the latter j lace. On 
their arrival, Bass was found, just on the point of Leav 
ing, to be absent a fortnight or more. After an in 
troduction, JSTorthup begged the privilege of speaking 
to him privately a moment. They walked together 
towards the river, when the following conversation 
ensued : 

" Mr. Bass," said Northup, " allow me to ask you 
if you were on Bayou Boeuf last August ? " 

" Yes, sir, I was there in August," was the reply. 

" Did you write a letter for a colored man at that 
place to some gentleman in Saratoga Springs ? " 

" Excuse me, sir, if I say that is none of your busi 
ness," answered Bass, stopping and looking his inter 
rogator searchingly in the face. 

" Perhaps I am rather hasty, Mr. Bass ; I beg your 
pardon ; but I have come from the State of JSTew-York 
to accomplish the purpose the writer of a letter dated 
the 15 tli of August, post-marked at Marksville, had 
in view. Circumstances have led me to think that 
you are perhaps the man who wrote it. I am in 
search of Solomon Nortlmp. If you know him, I beg 
you to inform me frankly where he is, and I assure 
you the source of any information you may give me 
shall not be divulged, if you desire it not to be." 

A long time Bass looked his new acquaintance 
steadily in the eyes, without opening his h ps. He 
seemed to be doubting in his own mind if there \vas 
M* 



TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

not an attempt to pi actioe some deception upon him. 
Finally lie said, deliberately 

" I have done nothing to be ashamed of. I am the 
man who wrote the letter. If you have come to res 
cue Solomon Nortliup, I am glad to see you." 

" When did you last see him, and where is he ? " 
Northup inquired. 

" I last saw him Christmas, a week ago to-day. 
/ He is the slave of Edwin Epps, a planter on Bayou 
Boeuf, near Holmesville. He is not known as Solo 
mon Northup ; he is called Platt." 

The secret was out the mystery was unraveled. 
Through the thick, black cloud, amid whose dark and 
dismal shadows I had walked twelve years, broke the 
star that was to light me back to liberty. All mis 
trust and hesitation were soon thrown aside, and the 
two men conversed long and freely upon the subject 
uppermost in their thoughts. Bass expressed the" 
interest he had taken in my behalf his intention of 
going north in the Spring, and declaring that he had 
resolved to accomplish my emancipation, if it were in 
his power. He described the commencement and 
progress of his acquaintance with me, and listened 
with eager curiosity to the account given him of my 
family, and the history of my early life. Before sep 
arating, he drew a map of the bayou on a strip of paper 
with a piece of red chalk, showing the locality of Epps 
plantation, and the road leading most directly to it. 

Northup and his young companion returned to 
ifarksville, where it was determined to commence 



LEGAL PROCEEDINGS. 21* ~ 

legal proceedings to test the question of my right to 
freedom. I was made plaintiff, Mr. North up actirr; 
as my guardian, and Edwin Epps defendant. Tlia 
process to be issued was in the nature of replevin, di 
rected to the sheriff of the parish, commanding him 
to take me into custody, and detain me until the de 
cision of the court. By the time the papers were duly 
drawn up, it was twelve o clock at night too late to 
obtain the necessary signature of the Judge, who resi 
dec! some distance out of town. Further business was 
therefore suspended until Monday morning. 

Everything, apparently, was moving along swim 
mingly, until Sunday afternoon, when Waddill called 
at Korthup s room to express his apprehension of dif 
acuities they had not expected to encounter. Bass 
had become alarmed, and had placed his affairs in 
the hands of a person at the landing, communicating 
to him his intention of leaving the State. This per 
son had betrayed the confidence reposed in him to a 
certain extent, and a rumor began to float about the 
town, that the stranger at the hotel, who had been 
observed in the company of lawyer "Waddill, was after 
one of old Epps slaves, over on the bayou. Epps 
wag known at Marksville, having frequent occasion 
to visit that place during the session of the courts, a-id 
the fear entertained by Mr. ISTorthup s adviser wa?, 
that intelligence would be conveyed to him in the 
night, giving him an opportunity of secreting me be- 
fr^-e the arrival of the sheriff. 

This apprehension had the effect of expediting mat- 



800 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

ters considerably. The sheriff, who lived in one direc 
tion from the village, was requested to hold himself 
in readiness immediately after midnight, while the 
Judge was informed he would be called upon at the 
same time. It is but justice to say, that the authori 
ties at Marksville cheerfully rendered all the assist 
ance in their power. 

As soon after midnight as bail could be perfected, 
and the Judge s signature obtained, a carriage, con 
taining Mr. Northup and the sheriff, driven by the 
landlord s son, rolled rapidly out of the village of 
Marksville, on the road towards Bayou Boeuf. 

It was supposed that Epps would contest the issue 
involving my right to liberty, and it therefore sug 
gested itself to Mr. Northup, that the testimony of the 
sheriff, describing my first meeting with the for 
mer, might perhaps become material on the trial. 
It was accordingly arranged during the ride, that 
before I had an opportunity of speaking to Mr 
Northup, the sheriff should propound to me cer 
tain questions agreed upon, such as the number and 
names of my children, the name of my wife before 
marriage, of places I knew at the North, and so forth. 
If my answers corresponded with the statements giv 
en him, the evidence must necessarily be considered 
conclusive. 

At length, shortly after Epps had left the field, with 
the consoling assurance that he would soon return and 
wa/rm us, as was stated in the conclusion of the pre 
ceding chapter, they came in sight of the plantation, 



PLANTATION. 301 

EM Ji discovered us at work. Alighting from the car 
riage, and directing the driver to proceed to the great 
house, with instructions not to mention to any one 
the object of their errand until they met again, North- 
up and the sheriff turned from the highway, and came 
towards us across the cotton field. We observed them, 
on looking up at the carriage one several rods in 
advance of the other. It was a singular and unusual 
thing to see white men approaching us in that man 
ner, and especially at that early hour in the morning, 
and Uncle Abram and Patsey made some remarks, 
expressive of their astonishment. Walking up to 
Bob, the sheriff inquired : 

" Where s the boy they call Platt ? " 

"Thar he is, massa," answered Bob, pointing to me, 
and twitching off his hat. 

I wondered to myself what business he could pos 
sibly have with me, and turning round, gazed at him 
until he had approached within a step. During my 
long residence on the bayou, I had become familiar 
with the face of every planter within many miles ; 
but this man was an utter stranger certainly 1 had 
never seen him before. 

" Your name is Platt, is it ? " he asked. 

" Yes, master," I responded. 

Pointing towards JSTorthup, standing a few rods dis 
tant, he demanded " Do you know that man ? " 

/ 

I looked in the direction indicated, and as my eyes 
rested on his countenance, a world of images thronged 
my brain ; a multitude of well-known faces Anne s, 



302 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

and the dear children s, and my old dead father s ; all 
the scenes and associations of childhood and youth ; 
all the friends of other and happier days, appeared 
and disappeared, flitting and floating like dissolving 
shadows before the vision of my imagination, until at 
last the perfect memory of the man recurred to me, 
and throwing up my hands towards Heaven, I ex 
claimed, in a voice louder than I could utter in a less 
exciting moment 

" Henry B. Nortliup ! Thank God thank God ! " 

In an instant I comprehended the nature of his busi 
ness, and felt that the hour of my deliverance was at 
hand. I started towards him, but the sheriff stepped 
oefore me. 

"Stop a moment," said he ; " have you any other 
name than Platt?" 

" Solomon Northup is my name, master," I replied. 

" Have you a family ? " he inquired. 

" I had a wife and three children." 

" What were your children s names ? " 

" Elizabeth, Margaret and Alonzo." 

" And your wife s name before her marriage ? " 

* Anne Hampton." 

Who married you ? " 

< Timothy Eddy, of Fort Edward." 

Where does that gentleman live ? " again pointing 
\\j Northup, who remained standing in the same place 
where I had first recognized him. 

" He lives in Sandy Hill, Washington count/, Xew 
York," was the reply. 



THE MEETING. 303 

He was proceeding to ask further questions, but 1 
pushed past him, unable longer to restrain myself. 
I seized my old acquaintance by both hands. I could 
not speak. I could not refrain from tears. 

,",Sol," he said at length, " I m glad to see you." 

I essayed to make some answer, but emotion choked 
all utterance, and I was silent. The slaves, utterly 
confounded, stood gazing upon the scene, their open 
mouths and rolling eyes indicating the utmost wonder 
and astonishment. For ten 4 y ears I had dwelt among 
them, in the field and in the cabin, borne the same 
hardships, partaken the same fare, mingled my griefs 
with theirs, participated in the same scanty joys ; 
nevertheless, not until this hour, the last I was to re 
main among them, had the remotest suspicion of my 
true name, or the slightest knowledge of my real his- 
_torjj_been entertained by any one of them. 

Not a word was spoken for several minutes, during 
which time I clung fast to Northup, looking up into 
his face, fearful I should awake and find it all a 
dream. 

" Throw down that sack," Northup added, finally, 
" your cotton-picking days are over. Come with us 
to the man you live with." 

I obeyed him, and walking between him and the 
sheriff, we moved towards the great house. It was 
not until we had proceeded some distance that I had 
vecovered my voice sufficiently to ask if my family 
were all living. He informed me he had seen Anne, 
Margaret and Elizabeth but a short time previously; 



304 TWELVE YEAHS A SLATE. 

that Alonzo was still living, and all were well. 
mother, however, I could never see again. As I be 
gan to recover in some measure from the sudden and 
great excitement which so overwhelmed me, I grew 
faint and weak, insomuch it was with difficulty I could 
walk. The sheriff took hold of my arm and assisted 
me, or I think I should have fallen. As we entered 
the yard, Epps stood b} the gate, conversing with the 
driver. That young man, faithful to his instructions, 
was entirely unable to give him the least information 
in answer to his repeated inquiries of what was going 
on. By the time we reached him he was almost as 
much amazed and puzzled as Bcb or Uncle Abram. 
Shaking hands with the sheriff, and receiving an 
introduction to Mr. Northup, he invited them into the 
house, ordering me, at the same time, to bring in 
some wood. It was some time before I succeeded in 
cutting an armful, having, somehow, unaccountably 
lost the power of wielding the axe with any manner 
of precision. When I entered with it at last, the 
table was strewn with papers, from one of which 
Nortlmp was reading. 1 was probably longer than 
necessity required, in placing the sticks upon the fire, 
being particular as to the exact position of each indi 
vidual one of them. I heard the words, " the said 
Solomon Nortlmp," and " the deponent further says," 
and " free citizen of New- York," repeated frequently, 
and from these expressions understood that the secret 
I had so long retained from Master and Mistress Epps, 
was finally developing. I lingered as long a? pru- 



MEETING AT EPP8 r HCV8B- 505 

dencc permitted, and was about lea^mp the room, 
wlien Epps inquired, 

" Platt, do yon know this gentleman ? " 

" Yes, master," I replied, " I have known him as 
long as I can remember." 

" Where does he live ? " 

" He lives in New- York." 

" Did you ever live there ? " 

" Yes, master born and bred there." 

"You was free, then. ISTow you d d nigger, " 

he exclaimed, " why did you not tell me that when 1 
bought you ? " 

" Master Epps," I answered, in a somewhat differ 
ent tone than the one in which I had been accustomed 
to address him " Master Epps, you did not take the 
trouble to ask me ; besides, I told one of my owners 
the man that kidnapped me that I was free, and 
was whipped almost to death for it." 

" It seems there has been a letter written for you by 
somebody. Now, who is it ? " he demanded, authori 
tatively. I made no reply. 

" I say, who wrote that letter ? " he demanded 
again. 

" Perhaps I wrote it myself," I said. 

"You haven t been to Marksville post-office and 
back before light, I know." 

He insisted upon my informing him, and I insisted 
I would not. He made many vehement threats against 
the man, whoever he might be, and intimated the 
bloody and savage vengeance he would wreak npop 

20 



30f> TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

him, when he found him out. His whole manner 
and language exhibited a feeling of anger towards the 
unknown person who had written for me, and of fret- 
fulness at the idea of losing so much property. Ad 
dressing Mr. Northup, he swore if he had only had an 
hour s notice of his coming, he would have saved him 
the trouble of taking me back to New- York; that he 
would have run me into the swamp, or some other 
place out of the way, where all the sheriffs on earth 
3ouldn t have found me. 

I walked out into the yard, and was entering the 
kitchen door, when something struck me in the back. 
Aunt Phebe, emerging from the back door of the 
great house with a pan of potatoes, had thrown one 
of them with unnecessary violence, thereby giving 
me to understand that she wished to speak to me a 
moment confidentially. Running up to me, she whis 
pered in my ear with great earnestness, 

" Lor a mity, Platt ! what d ye think ? Dem two 
men come after ye. Heard em tell massa you free > 
got wife and tree children back tliar whar you come 
from. Goiu wid em? Fool if ye don t wish I 
could go," and Aunt Phebe ran on in this manner at 
a rapid rate. 

Presently Mistress Epps made her appearance in 
the kitchen. She said many things to me, and won 
dered why I had not told her who I was. She ex 
pressed her regret, complimenting me by saying she 
had rather lose any other servant on the plantation. 
Flad Patsey that day stood in my place, the measure 



THE FAREWELL. 307 



af my mistress joy would have overflowed. 
there was no one left who could mend a chair or a 
piece of furniture no one who was of any use about 
the house no one who could play for her on the vio 
lin and Mistress Epps was actually affected to tears. 

Epps had called to Bob to bring up his saddle horse. 
The other slaves, also, overcoming their fear of the 
penalty, had left their work and come to the yard. 
They were standing behind the cabins, out of sight of 
Epps. They beckoned me to come to them, and with 
all the eagerness of curiosity, excited to the highest 
pitch, conversed with and questioned me. If I could 
repeat the exact words they uttered, with th& same 
emphasis if I could paint their several attitudes, and 
the expression of their countenances it would be 
indeed an interesting picture. In their estimation, I 
had suddenly arisen to an immeasurable height had 
become a being of immense importance. 

The legal papers having been served, and arrange 
ments made with Epps to meet them the next day at 
Marksville, Nortlmp and the sheriff entered the 
carriage to return to the latter place. As I was about 
mounting to the driver s seat, the sheriff said I ought 
to bid Mr. and Mrs. Epps good bye. I ran back to 
the piazza where they were standing, and taking off 
my hat, said, 

" Good-bye, missis." 

" Good-bye, Platt," said Mrs. Epps, kindly. 

" Good-bye, master." 

" Ah ! you d d nigger," muttered Epps, in a surly 



308 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

malicious tone of voice, " you needn t feel so cussed 
tickled you ain t gone yet I ll see about this busi 
ness at Marksville to-morrow." 

XI was only a " nigger" and knew my place, but felt 
as strongly as if I had been a white man, that it 
would have been an inward comfort, had I dared to 
have given him a parting kick.x On my way back to 
the carriage, Patsey ran from behind a cabin and 
threw her arms about my neck. 

" Oh ? Platt," she cried, tearg streaming down her 
face, " you re goin to be free you re goin way off 
yonder, where we ll nebber see ye any more. You ve 
saved me a good many whippins, Platt; I m glad 
you re goin to be free but oh ! de Lord, de Lord ! 
what ll become of me ? 

I disengaged myself from her, and entered the 
carriage. The driver cracked his whip and away we 
rolled. I looked back and saw Patsey, with drooping 
head, half reclining on the ground ; Mrs. Epps was on 
the piazza; Uncle Abram, and Bob, and Wiley, and 
Aunt Phebe stood by the gate, gazing after me. I 
waved my hand, but the carriage turned a bend of 
the bayou, hiding them from my eyes forever. 

We stopped a moment at Carey s sugar house, 
where a great number of slaves were at work, such 
an establishment being a curiosity to a Northern man. 
Epps dashed by us on horseback at full speed on 
the way, as we learned next day, to the " Pine 
Woods," to see William Ford, who had brought me 
into the country. 



DEPARTURE HOMEWARD. 309 

Tuesday, the fourth of January, Epps and his coun 
sel, the Hon. H. Taylor Northup, "Waddill, the Judge 
and sheriff of Avoyelles, and myself, met in a room 
in the village of Marksville. Mr. Northup stated the 
facts in regard to me, and presented his commission, 
and the affidavits accompanying it. The sheriff de 
scribed the scene in the cotton field. I was also 
interrogated at great length. Finally, Mr. Taylor 
assured his client that he was satisfied, and that liti 
gation would not only be expensive, but utterly use 
less. In accordance with his advice, a paper was 
drawn up and signed by the proper parties, wherein 
Epps acknowledged he was satisfied of my right to 
freedom, and formally surrendered me to the authori 
ties of New- York. It was also stipulated that it be 
entered of record in the recorder s office of Avoy 
elles.* 

Mr. Northup and myself immediately hastened to 
the landing, and taking passage on the first steamer 
that arrived, were soon floating down Red River, up 
which, with such desponding thoughts, I had been 
borne twelve years before. 

* Se Appendix, C. 



CHAPTER XXII. 

&RRTVAL IN NEW-ORLEANS GLIMPSE OF FREEMAN GENOI8, THE RECORD- 

ER- HIS DESCRIPTION OF SOLOMON REACH CHARLESTON INTERRUPTED 

BY CUSTOM HOUSE OFFICERS PASS THROUGH RICHMOND ARRIVAL IM 

WASHINGTON BURCH ARRESTED SHEKELS AND THORN THEIR TESTI 
MONY BURCH ACQUITTED ARREST CF SOLOMON BURCH WITHDRAWS 

THE COMPLAINT THE HIGHER TRIBUNAL DEPARTURE FROM WASHING 
TON ARRIVAL AT SANDY HILL OLD FRIENDS AND FAMILIAR SCENES 

PROCEED TO GLENS FALLS MEETING WITH ANNE, MARGARET AND ELIZA 
BETH SOLOMON NORTHUP 8TAUNTON INCIDENTS CONCLUSION. 

As the steamer glided on its way towards ]STew- 
Orleans, perhaps I was not happy perhaps there 
was no difficulty in restraining myself from dancing 
round the deck perhaps I did not feel grateful tc 
the man who had come so many hundred miles for 
me perhaps I did not light his pipe, and wait and 
watch his word, and run at his slightest bidding. If 
I didn t well, no matter. 

We tarried at New-Orleans two days. During that 
time I pointed out the locality of Freeman s slave 
pen, and the room in which Ford purchased me, We 
happened to meet Theophilus in the street, but I did 
not think it worth while to renew acquaintance with 
him. From respectable citizens we ascertained he 
had become a low, miserable rowdy a broken-down, 
disreputable man. 



THE RECORDER OF NEW-ORLEANS. 311 

We also visited the recorder, Mr. Genois, to whom 
Senator Scale s letter was directed, and found him a 
man well deserving the wide and honorable reputa 
tion that he bears. He very generously furnished us 
with a sort of legal pass, over his signature and seal 
of office, and as it contains the recorder s description 
of my personal appearance, it may not be amiss to in 
Bert it here. The following is a copy : 

" State of Louisiana City of New- Orleans : 

Recorder s Office, Second District. 
" To all to whom these presents shall come : 

" This is to certify that Henry B. Northup, Esquire, of the 
county of Washington, New-York, has produced before me due 
evidence of the freedom of Solomon, a__mulatto__man, aged 
about forty-two years, five feet, seven inches and six lines, woolly 
hair, and chestnut eyes, who is a native born of the State of 
New- York. That the said Northup, being about bringing the 
said Solomon to his native place, through the southern routes, 
the civil authorities are requested to let the aforesaid color 
ed man Solomon pass unmolested, he demeaning well and 
properly. 

" Given under my hand and the seal of the city of New-Or 
leans this 7th January, 1853. 

[L. s.] "TH. GENOIS, Recorder." 

On the 8th we came to Lake Pontchar train, by rail 
road, and, in due time, following the usual route, 
reached Charleston. After going on board the steam 
boat, and pay ing our passage at this city, Mr. North- 
up was called upon by a custom-house officer to ex 
plain why he had not registered his servant. He 



312 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

replied that he had no servant that, as the agent of 
New- York, he was accompanying a free citizen of that 
State from slavery to freedom, and did not desire nor 
intend to make any registry whatever. I conceived 
from his conversation and manner, though I may per 
haps be entirely mistaken, that no great pains would 
be taken to avoid whatever difficulty the Charleston 
officials might deem proper to create. At length, 
however, we were permitted to proceed, and, passing 
through Richmond, where I caught a glimpse of 
Goodin s pen, arrived in Washington January 17th, 
1853. 

"We ascertained that both Burch and Radburn were 
still residing in that city. Immediately a complaint 
was entered with a police magistrate of Washington, 
against James H. Burch, for kidnapping and selling 
me into slavery. He was arrested upon a warrant 
issued by Justice Goddard, and returned before Jus 
tice Mansel, and held to bail in the sum of three thou- 
Band dollars. When first arrested, Burch was much 
excited, exhibiting the utmost fear and alarm, and be 
fore reaching the justice s office on Louisiana Ave 
nue, and before knowing the precise nature of the 
complaint, begged the police to permit him to consult 
Benjamin O. Shekels, a slave trader of seventeen 
years standing, and his former partner. The latter 
became his bail. 

At ten o clock, the 18th of January, both parties 
appeared before the magistrate. Senator Chase, of 
Ohio, Hon. Orville Clark, of Sandy Hill, and Mr 



BTTBCII ARRESTED. 313 

North^-p acted as counsel for the prosecution, and Jo 
seph EL Bradley for the defence. 

Gen. Orville Clark was called and sworn as a wit 
ness, and testified that he had known me from child 
hood, and that I was a free man, as was my father be 
fore me. Mr. Northup then testified to the same, and 
proved the facts connected with his mission to Avoy- 
elles. 

Ebenezer Radburn was then sworn for tbe prosecu - 
tion, and testified he was forty-eight years old ; that 
he was a resident of Washington, and had known 
Burch fourteen years ; that in 1841 he was keeper of 
"Williams slave pen ; that he remembered the fact of 
my confinement in the pen that year. At this point 
it was admitted by the defendant s counsel, that I had 
been placed in the pen by Burch in the spring of 
1841, and hereupon the prosecution rested. 

Benjamin O. Shekels was then oifered as a witness 
by the prisoner. Benjamin is a large, coarse-featured 
man, and the reader may perhaps get a somewhat 
correct conception of him by reading the exact lan 
guage he used in answer to the first question of de 
fendant s lawyer. He was asked the place of his na 
tivity, and his reply, uttered in a sort of rowdyish 
way, was in these very words 

"I was born in Ontario county, New- York, and 
weighed fourteen pounds /" 

Benjamin was a prodigious baby ! He further tes 
tified that he kept the Steamboat Hotel in "Washing 
ton in 1841, and saw me there in the spring of that 



314 TWELVE YEAKS A SLATE. 

year. He was proceeding to state what lie had heard 
two men say, when Senator Chase raised a legal ob 
jection, to wit, that the sayings of third persons, be 
ing hearsay, was improper evidence. The objection 
was overruled by the Justice, and Shekels continued, 
stating that twu men came to his hotel and represent 
ed they had a colored man for sale ; that they had an 
interview with Burch ; that they stated they came 
from Georgia, but he did not remember the county ; 
that they gave a fall history of the boy, saying he was 
a bricklayer, and played on the violin ; that Burch 
remarked he would purchase if they could agree ; that 
they went out and brought the boy in, and that I was 
the same person. He further testified, with as 
much unconcern as if it was the truth, that I rep- 
presented I was born and bred in Georgia ; that 
one of the young men with me was my master ; that 
I exhibited a great deal of regret at parting with him, 
and he believed " got into tears !" - nevertheless, that 
I insisted my master had a right to sell me ; that he 
ought to sell me ; and the remarkable reason I gave 
was, according to Shekels, because he, my master, 
" had been gambling and on a spree !" 

He continued, in these words, copied from the min 
utes taken on the examination : " Burch interrogated 
the boy in the usual manner, told him if he purchas 
ed him he should send him south. The boy said he 
had no objection, that in fact he would like to go 
south. Burch paid $650 for him, to my knowledge: 
I don t know what name was given him, but think it 



SHEKELS AND THORN. 315 

was not Solomon. Did not know the name of either 
of the two men. They were in my tavern two or three 
hours, during which time the boy played on the vio 
lin. The hill of sale was signed in my bar-room. It 
was a printed blank, filled up ly Burch. Before 1838 
Burch was my partner. Our business was buying 
and selling slaves. After that time he was a partner 
of Theophilus Freeman, of New-Orleans. Burch 
bought here Freeman sold there !" 

Shekels, before testifying, had heard my relation of 
the circumstances connected with the visit to Wash 
ington with Brown and Hamilton, and therefore, it 
was, undoubtedly, he spoke of " two men," and of my 
playing on the violin. Such was his fabrication, ut 
terly untrue, and yet there was found in Washington 
a man who endeavored to corroborate him. 

Benjamin A. Thorn testified he was at Shekels in 
1841, and saw a colored boy playing on a fiddie. 
" Shekels said he was for sale. Heard his master tell 
him he should sell him. The boy acknowledged to me 
he was a slave. I was not present when the money 
was paid. Will not swear positively this is the boy. 
The master came near shedding tears : I think the loy 
did ! I have been engaged in the business of taking 
slaves south, off and on, for twenty years. When J 
do that I do something else." 



I was then offered as a witness, but, objection be 
ing made, the court decided my evidence inadmissible. 



It was rejected solely on the ground that I was a col- 



316 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

ored man the fact of my being a free citizen of 
New- York not being disputed. 

Shekels having testified there was a bill of sale ex 
ecuted, Burch was called upon by the prosecution to 
produce it, inasmuch as such a paper would corrobo 
rate the testimony of Thorn and Shekels. The pris 
oner s counsel saw the necessity of exhibiting it, or 
giving some reasonable explanation for its non-pro 
duction. To eifect the latter, Burch himself was offer- 
as a witness in his own behalf. It was contended by 
counsel for the people, that such testimony should not 
be allowed that it was in contravention of every 
rule of evidence, and if permitted would defeat the 
ends of justice. His testimony, however, was receiv 
ed by the court ! He made oath that such a bill of 
sale had been drawn up and signed, ~but he had lost it, 
and did not know what had become of it ! Thereup 
on the magistrate was requested to dispatch a police 
officer to Burch s residence, with directions to bring 
his books, containing his bills of sales for the year 
1811. The request was granted, and before any meas 
ure could be taken to prevent it, the officer had ob 
tained possession of the books, and brought them into 
court. The sales for the year 1841 were found, and 
carefully examined, but no sale of myself, by any 
name, was discovered ! 

Upon tlr s testimony the court held the fact to be 
established, that Burch came innocently and honestly 
by me, and accordingly he was discharged. 



AKREST OF SOLOMON. SI / 

An attempt was then made by Burch and his sat 
ellites, to fasten upon me the charge that I had con 
spired with the two white men to defraud him with 
what success, appears in an extract taken from an ar 
ticle in the New- York Times, published a day or two 
subsequent to the trial : " The counsel for the defend 
ant had drawn up, before the defendant was dis 
charged, an affidavit, signed by Burch, and had a 
warrant out against the colored man for a conspiracy 
with the two white men before referred to, to defraud 
Burch out of six hundred and twenty-five dollars. 
The warrant was served, and the colored man arrest 
ed and brought before officer Goddard. Bnrch and 
his witnesses appeared in court, and H. B. Northup 
appeared as counsel for the colored man, stating he 
was ready to proceed as counsel on the part of the de 
fendant, and asking no delay whatever. Burch, aftei 
consulting privately a short time with Shekels, stated 
to the magistrate that he wished him to dismiss the 
complaint, as he would not proceed farther with it. 
Defendant s counsel stated to the magistrate that if 
the complaint was withdrawn, it must be without the 
request or consent of the defendant. Burch then 
asked the magistrate to let him have the complaint 
and the warrant, and he took them. The counsel for 
the defendant objected to his receiving them, and in 
sisted they should remain as part of the records of the 
court, and that the court should endorse the proceed 
ings which had been had under the process. Burch 
delivered them up, and the court rendered a judg- 



318 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 



of discontinuance by the request of the prosecu 
tor, and filed it in his office. " 

There may be those who will affect to believe the 
statement of the slave-trader those, in whose minds 
his allegations will weigh heavier than mine. I am a 
poor colored man one of a down-trodden and de 
graded race, whose humble voice may not be heeded 
by the oppressor but knowing the truth, and with a 
full sense of my accountability, I do solemnly declare 
before men, and before Grod, that any charge or as 
sertion, that I conspired directly or indirectly with 
any person or persons to sell myself; that any other 
account of my visit to Washington, my capture and 
imprisonment in Williams slave pen, than is contain 
ed in these pages, is utterly and absolutely false. I 
never played on the violin in Washington. I never 
was in the Steamboat Hotel, and never saw Thorn or 
Shekels, to my knowledge, in my life, until last Jan 
uary. The story of the trio of slave-traders is a fab 
rication as absurd as it is base and unfounded. Were 
it true, I should not have turned aside on my way 
back to liberty for the purpose of prosecuting Burch. 
I should have avoided rather than sought him. I 
should have known that such a step w~ould have re 
sulted m rendering me infamous. Under the circum 
stances longing as I did to behold my family, and 
elated with the prospect of returning home it is an 
outrage upon probability to suppose I would have run 
the hazard, not only of exposure, but of a criminal 



DEPARTURE FROM WASHINGTON. 31 

prosecution and conviction, by voluntarily placing 
myself in the position I did, if the statements of 
Burch and his confederates contain a particle of truth. 
I took pains to seek him out, to confront him in a 
court of law, charging him with the crime of kidnap 
ping ; and the only motive that impelled me to this 
step, was a burning sense of the wrong he had inflict 
ed upon me, and a desire to bring him to justice. 
He was acquitted, in the manner, and by such means 
as have been described. A human tribunal has per 
mitted him to escape ; but there is another and a 
higher tribunal, where false testimony will not pre 
vail, and where I am willing, so far at least as these 
statements are concerned, to be judged at last. 

We left Washington on the 20th of January, and 
proceeding by the way of Philadelphia, New- York, 
and Albany, reached Sandy Hill in the night of the 
My heart overflowed with happiness as I look 
ed around upon old familiar scenes, and found myself 
in the midst of friends of other days. The following 
morning I started, in company with several acquaint 
ances, for Glens Falls, the residence of Anne and our 
children. 

~ As 1 entered their comfortable cottage, Margaret 
was the first that met me. She did not recognize me. 
When I left her, she was but seven years old, a little 
prattling girl, playing with her toys. Now she was 
grown to womanhood was married, with a bright- 
eyed boy standing by her side. Not forgetful of his 



320 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

enslaved, unfortunate grand-father, she had named the 
child Solomon Northup Staunton. When told who 
I was, she was overcome with emotion, and unable to 
gpeak. Presently Elizabeth entered the room, and 
Anne came running from the hotel, having been in 
formed of my arrival. They embraced me, and with 
tears flowing down their cheeks, hung upon my neck. 

v But I draw a veil over a scene which can better be 

* imagined than described. 

~~~^> When the violence of our emotions had subsided to 
a sacred joy when the household gathered round 
the fire, that sent out its warm and crackling comfort 
through the room, we conversed of the thousand 
events that had occurred the hopes and fears, the 
joys and sorrows, the trials and troubles we had each 
experienced during the long separation. Alonzowas> 
absent in the western part of the State. The boy 
had written to his mother a short time previous, o^ 
the prospect of his obtaining sufficient money to pur 
chase my freedom. From his earliest years, that had 
been the chief object of his thoughts and his ambi 
tion. They knew I was in bondage. The letter writ/ 
ten on boarcf the brig, anoT "dem Kay himself, had 
given them that information. But where I was, until 
the arrival of Bass letter, was a matter of conjecture. 
Elizabeth and Margaret once returned from school 
BO Anne informed me weeping bitterly. On inquir 
ing the cause of the children s sorrow, it was found 
that, while studying geography, their attention had 
oeen attracted to the picture of slaves working in the 



CONCLUSION. 321 

jottori-lield, and an overseer following them with his 
whip, it reminded them of the sufferings their fa 
ther might be, and, as it happened, actually was, en 
during in the South. Numerous incidents, such as 
these, were related incidents showing they still held 
me in constant remembrance, but not, perhaps, of 
sufficient interest to the reader, to be recounted. 

My narrative is at an end. I have no comments to 
make upon the subject of Slavery. Those who read 
this book may form their own opinions of the " pe 
culiar institution." What it may be in other States, 
I do not profess to know ; what it is in the region of 
Red River, is truly and faithfully delineated in these 
pages. This is no fiction, no exaggeration. If I have 
failed in anything, it r as been in presenting to the 
reader too prominently the bright side of the picture. 
I doubt not hundreds have been as unfortunate aa 
myself; that hundreds of free citizens have been kid 
napped and sold into slavery, and are at this mo 
ment wearing out their lives on plantations in 
Texas and Louisiana. But I forbear. Ohastene 
and subdued in spirit by the sufferings I have borne, 
and thankful to that good Being through whose mer 
cy I have been restored to happiness and liberty, 
I hope henceforward to lead an upright though lowly 
life, and rest at last in the church yard where my fa 
ther sleeps. 

N* 21 




APPENDIX. 



A. Page 291. 

CHAP. 375. 

An act more effectually to protect the free citizens of this Staff 
from being kidnapped, or reduced to Slavery. 

[Passed May 14, 1840.] 

The People of the State of New- York, represented in Sen 
ate and Assembly, do enact as follows : 

1. Whenever the Governor of this State shall receive 
information satisfactory to him that any free citizen or any 
inhabitant of this State has been kidnapped or transported 
away out of this State, into any other State or Territory of the 
United States, for the purpose of being there held in slavery ; or 
that such free citizen or inhabitant is wrongfully seized, im 
prisoned or held in slavery in any of the States or Territories 
of the United States, on the allegation or pretence that such 
a person is a slave, or by color of any usage or rule of law 
prevailing in such State or Territory, is deemed or taken to bo 
a slave, or not entitled of right to the personal liberty belong - 
ing to a citizen ; it shall be the duty of the said Governor to 



324 TWELVE YEARS A SLATE. 



pei 

^Th 



take such measures as he shall deem necessary to procure such 
person to be restored to his liberty and returned to this State, 

e Governor is hereby authorized to appoint and employ such 
agent or agents as he shall deem necessary to effect the restora 
tion and return of such person ; and shall furnish the said ageni 
with such credentials and instructions as will be likely to ac 
complish the object of his appointment. The Governor may 
determine the compensation to be allowed to such agent for his 
services besides his necessary expenses. 

" 2. Such agent shall proceed to collect the proper proof to 
establish the right of such person to his freedom, and shall per 
form such journeys, take such measures, institute and procure 
to be prosecuted such legal proceedings, under the direction of 
the Governor, as shall be necessary to procure such person to 
be restored to his liberty and returned to this State. 

3. The accounts for all services and expenses incurred in 
carrying this act into effect shall be audited by the Comptroller, 
and paid by the Treasurer on lus warrant, out of any moneys 
in the treasury of this State not otherwise appropriated. The 
Treasurer may advance, on the warrant of the Comptroller, to 
such agent, such sum or sums as the Governor shall certify to 
be reasonable advances to enable him to accomplish the pur- 
ooses of his appointment, for which advance such agent shall 
account, on the final audit of his warrant. 

4. This act shall take effect immediately. 



APPENDIX. 325 

B. Page 292. 

MEMORIAL OF ANNE. 

To His Excellency, the Governor of the State of New-York : 

The memorial of Anne Northup, of the village of Gleria 
Falls, in the county of Warren, State aforesaid, respectfully 
sets forth 

That your memorialist, whose maiden name was Anne Hamp 
ton, was forty -four years old on the 14th day of March last, and 
was married to Solomon Northup, then of Fort Edward, in 
the county of Washington and State aforesaid, on the 25th day 
of December, A. D. 1828, by Timothy Eddy, then a Justice 
of the Peace. That the said Solomon, after such marriage, 
lived and kept house with your memorialist in said town until 
1830, when he removed with his said family to the town of 
Kingsbury in said county, and remained there about three 
years, and then removed to Saratoga Springs in the State 
aforesaid, and continued to reside in said Saratoga Springs and 
the adjoining town until about the year 1841, as near as the 
time can be recollected, when the said Solomon started to go to 
the city of Washington, in the District of Columbia, since 
which time your memorialist has never seen her said husband. 

And your memorialist further states, that in the year 1841 
she received information by a letter directed to Henry B. 
Northup, Esq., of Sandy Hill, Washington county, New-York, 
and post-marked at New Orleans, that said Solomon had been 
kidnapped in Washington, put on board of a vessel, and was 
then in such vessel in New-Orleans, but could not tell how he 
came in that situation, nor what his lestination was. 

That your memorialist ever since the last mentioned period 
has been wholly unable to obtain any information of where the 
said Solomon was, until the month of September last, when 



826 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE- 

another letter was received from the said Solomon, post-marked 
at Marksville, in the parish of Avoyelles, in the State of Lou 
isiana, stating that he was held there as a slave, which state 
ment your memorialist believes to be true. 

That the said Solomon is about forty-five years of age, and 
never resided out of the State of New-York, in which State he 
was born, until the time he went to Washington city, as before 
stated. That the said Solomon Northup is a free citizen of the 
State of New-York, and is now wrongfully held in slavery, in 
or near Marksville, in the parish of Avoyelles, in the State of 
Louisiana, one of the United States of America, on the allega 
tion or pretence that the said Solomon is a slave. 

And your memorialist further states that Mintus Northup was 
the reputed father of said Solomon, and was a negro, and died 
at Fort Edward, on the 22d day of November, 1829 ; that the 
mother of said Solomon was a mulatto, or three quarters white, 
and died in the county of Oswego, New-,York ; some five or six 
years ago, as your memorialist was informed and believes, and 
never was a slave. 

That your memorialist and her family are poor and wholly 
unable to pay or sustain any portion of the expenses of restor 
ing the said Solomon to his freedom. 

Your excellency is entreated to employ such agent or agents 
as shall be deemed necessary to effect the restoration and return 
of said Solomon Northup, in pursuance of an act of the Legis 
lature of the State of New-York, passed May 14th, 1840, 
entitled " An act more effectually to protect the free citizens of 
this State from being kidnappd or reduced to slavery." And 
your memorialist will ever pray. 

(Signed,) ANNE NORTHUP. 

Dated November 19, 1852. 



APPENDIX. 327 

STATE OF NEW-YORK : 

Washington county, ss. 

Anne Northup, of the village of Glens Falls, in the county 
of Warren, in said State, being duly sworn, doth depose and 
say that she signed the above memorial, and that the state 
ments therein contained are true. 

(Signed,) ANNE NORTHUP 

Subscribed and sworn before me this 
19th November, 1852. 

CHARLES HUGHES, Justice Peace. 

We recommend that the Governor appoint Henry B. Northup, 
of the village of Sandy Hill, Washington county, New-York, 
as one of the agents to procure the restoration and return 
of Solomon Northup, named in the foregoing memorial of 
Anne Northup. 

Dated at Sandy Hill, Washington Co., N. Y., 
November 20, 1852. (Signed,) 

PETEE HOLBKOOK, DANIEL SWEET, 

B. F. HOAG, ALMON CLARK, 

CHAKLES HUGHES, BENJAMIN FERRIS, 

E. D. BAKER, JOSIAH II. BROWN 

ORVILLE CLARK. 

STATE OF NEW- YORK : 

Washington County, ss : 

Josiah Hand, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said county, be 
ing duly sworn, says, he is fifty-seven years old, and was born 
in said village, and has always resided there ; that he has 
known Mintus Northup and his son Solomon, named in the an 
nexed memorial of Anne Northup, since previous to the year 
1 816 ; that Mintus Northup then, and until the time of his death, 
cultivated a farm in the towns of Kingsbury and Fort Edward, 
from the time deponent first knew him until he died ; that said 
Minrus and his wife, the mother of said Solomon Northup, 



328 TWELVE TEAKS A SLAVE. 

were reported to be free citizens of New- York, and deponent 
believes they were so free ; that said Solomon Northup was 
born in said county of Washington, as deponent believes, and 
was married Dec. 25th, 1828, in Fort Edward aforesaid, and 
his said wife and three children two daughters and one son 
are now living in Glens Falls, Warren county, New-York, and 
that the said Solomon Northup always resided in said county 
of Washington, and its immediate vicinity, until about 1841, 
since which time deponent has not seen him, but deponent 
has been credibly informed, and as he verily believes truly 
the said Solomon is now wrongfully held as a slave in the 
State of Louisiana. And deponent further says that Anne 
Northup, named in the said memorial, is entitled to credit, and 
deponent believes the statements contained in her said memo 
rial are true. (Signed,) JOS1AH HAND. 

Subscribed and sworn before me this 
19th day of November, 1852, 

CHARLES HUGHES, Justice Peace. 
STATE OF NEW-YORK: 

Washington county, ss : 

Timothy Eddy, of Fort Edward, in said county, being duly 
sworn, says he is now over years old, and has been a resident 
of said town more than years last past, and that he was 
well acquainted with Solomon Northup, named in the annexed 
memorial of Anne Northup, and with his father, Mintus North- 
up, who was a negro, the wife of said Mintus was a mulatto 
woman ; that said Mintus Northup and his said wife and family, 
two sons, Joseph and Solomon, resided in said town of Fort 
Edward for several years before the year 1828, and said Min 
tus died in said town A. D. 1829, as deponent believes. And 
deponent further says that he was a Justice of the Peace ic 
said town in the year 1828, and as such Justice of the Peace, 
he, on the 25th day of Dec r, 1828, joined the said Solomon 



APPENDIX. 329 

Northup in marriage with Anne Hampton, who is the same 
person who has subscribed the annexed memorial. And depo 
nent expressly says, that said Solomon was a free citizen of 
the State of New- York, and always lived in said State, until 
about the year A. D. 1840, since which time deponent has not 
seen him, but has recently been informed, and as deponent be- 
lieves truly, that said Solomon Northup is wrongfully held in 
slavery in or near Marksvllle, in the parish of Avoyelles, in the 
State of Louisiana. And deponent further says, that said Min 
tus Northup was nearly sixty years old at the time of his death, 
and was, for more than thirty years next prior to his death, a 
free citizen of the State of New- York. 

And this deponent further says, that Anne Northup, the wife 
of said Solomon Northup, is of good character and reputation, 
and her statements, as contained in the memorial hereto annexed, 
are entitled to full credit. 

(Signed,) TIMOTHY EDDY. 
Subscribed and sworn before me this 

19th day of November, 1852, 

TIM Y STOUGHTON, Justice. 

STATE OF NEW-YORK : 

Washington County, ss : 

Henry B. Northup, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said 
county, being duly sworn, says, that he is forty -seven years old, 
and has always lived in said county ; that he knew Mintus 
Northup, named in the annexed memorial, from deponent s 
earliest recollection until the time of his death, which occurred 
at Fort Edward, in said county, in 1829 ; that deponent knew 
the children of said Mintus, viz, Solomon and Joseph; that 
they were both born in the county of Washington aforesaid, as 
deponent believes ; that deponent was well acquainted with 
said Solomon, who is the same person named in the annexed 
memorial of Anne Northup, from his childhood ; and that said 



330 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

Solomon always resided in said county of Washington and the 
adjoining counties until about the year 1841 ; that said Solo 
mon could read and write ; that said Solomon and his mother 
and father were free citizens of the State of New -York ; that 
sometime about the year 1841 this deponent received a letter 
from said Solomon, post-marked New-Orleans, stating that 
while on business at Washington city, he had been kidnapped, 
and his free papers taken from him, and he was then on board 
a vessel, in irons, and was claimed as a slave, and that he did 
not know his destination, which the deponent believes to be 
true, and he urged this deponent to assist in procuring his restora- 
cion to freedom ; that deponent has lost or mislaid said letter, 
and cannot find it ; that deponent has since endeavored to find 
where said Solomon was, but could get no farther trace of him 
until Sept. last, when this deponent ascertained by a letter pur 
porting to have been written by the direction of said Solomon, 
that said Solomon was held and claimed as a slave in or near 
Marks ville, in the parish of Avoyelles, Louisiana, and that this 
deponent verily believes that such information is true, and that 
said Solomon is now wrongfully held in slavery at Marksville 
aforesaid. (Signed,) HENRY B. NORTHUP. 

Subscribed and sworn to before me 
this 20th day of November, 1852, 

CHARLES HUGHES, J. P. 

STATE OF NEW-YORK : 

Washington County, ss 

Nicholas C. Northup, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said 
county, being duly sworn, doth depose and say, that he is now 
fifty eight years of age, and has known Solomon Northup, men 
tioned in the annexed memorial of Ann Northup, ever since he 
was born. And this deponent saith that said Solomon is now 
about forty-five years old. and was born hi the county of Wash 



APPENDIX. 331 

u.^ton aforesaid, or in the county of Essex, in said State, arid 
, dways resided in the State of New- York until about the year 
1841, since which time deponent has not seen him or known 
where he was, until a few weeks since, deponent was informed, 
and believes truly, that said Solomon was held in slavery in 
the State of Louisiana. Deponent further says, that said Sol 
omon was married in the town of Fort Edward, in said county, 
about twenty-four years ago, and that his wife and two daugh 
tors and one son now reside in the village of Glens Falls, coun 
ty of Warren, in said State of New-York. And this deponent 
swears positively that said Solomon Northup is a citizen of said 
State of New- York, and was born free, and from his earliest 
infancy lived and resided in the counties of Washington, Essex, 
Warren and Saratoga, in the State of New-York, and that his 
said wife and children have never resided out of said counties 
since the time said Solomon was married ; that deponent knew 
the father of said Solomon Northup ; that said father was a 
negro, named Mintus Northup, and died in the town of Fort 
Edward, in the county of Washington, State of New- York, on 
the 22d day of November, A. D. 1829, and was buried in the 
grave-yard in Sandy Hill aforesaid ; that for more than thirty 
years before his death he lived in the counties of Essex, Wash 
ington and Rensselaer and State of New- York, and left a wife 
and two sons, Joseph and the said Solomon, him surviving ; 
that the mother of said Solomon was a mulatto woman, and is 
now dead, and died, as deponent believes, in Oswego county, 
New-York, within five or six years past. And this deponent 
further states, that the mother of the said Solomon Northup 
was not a slave at the time of the birth of said Solomon North- 
up, and has not been a slave at any time within the last fifty 
years. (Signed,) N. C. NORTHUP. 

Subscribed and sworn before me this 19th day 

or November, 1852. CHARLES HUGHES, Justice Peace. 



332 TWELVE YEARS A SLAVE. 

STATE OF NEW-YORK : 
Washington County, ss. 

Orville Clark, of the village of Sandy Hill, in the county of 
Washington, State of New-York, being duly sworn, doth de 
pose and say that he, this deponent, is over fifty years of age ; 
that in the years 1810 and 1811, or most of the time of those 
years, this deponent resided at Sandy Hill, aforesaid, and at 
Glens Falls ; that this deponent then knew Mintus Northup, a 
black or colored man ; he was then a free man, as this depo 
nent believes and always understood; that the wife of said 
Mintus Northup, and mother of Solomon, was a free woman ; 
that from the year 1818 until the time of the death of said 
Mintus Northup, about the year 1829, this deponent was very 
well acquainted with the said Mintus Northup ; that he was a 
respectable man in the community in which he resided, and 
was a free man, so taken and esteemed by all his acquaintan 
ces ; that this deponent has also been and was acquainted with 
his son Solomon Northup, from the said year 1818 until he 
left this part of the country, about the year 1840 or 1841 ; 
that he married Anne Hampton, daughter of William Hamp 
ton, a near neighbor of this deponent ; that the said Anne, wife 
of said Solomon, is now living and resides in this vicinity ; that 
the said Mintus Northup and William Hampton were both re 
puted and esteemed in this community as respectable men. 
And this deponent saith that the said Mintus Northup and his 
family, and the said William Hampton and his family, from 
the earliest recollection and acquaintance of this deponent with 
him (as fav back as 1810,) were always reputed, esteemed, and 
taken to be, and this deponent believes, truly so, free citizens of 
the State of New-York. This deponent knows the said Wil 
liam Hampton, under the laws of this State, was entitled to 
vote at our elections, and he believes the said Mintus Northup 
also was entitled as a free citizen with the property qualifies, 



APPENDIX. 333 

lion. And this deponent further saith, that the said Solomon 
Nbrthup, son of said Minfus, and husband of said Anne Hamp 
ton, when he left this State, was at the time thereof a free cit?- 
zen of the State of New- York. And this deponent further 
saith, that said Anne Hampton, wife of Solomon Northup, is a 
respectable woman, of good character, and I would believe her 
statements, and do believe the facts set forth in her memorial 
to his excellency, the Governor, in relation to her said husband, 
are true. (Signed,) ORVILLE CLARK. 

Sworn before me, November 
19th, 1852. 

U. G. PARIS, Justice of the Peace. 

STATE OF NEW-YORK: 

Washington County, ss. 

Benjamin Ferns, of the village of Sandy Hill, in said county., 
being duly sworn, doth depose and say that he is now fifty- 
seven years old, and has resided in said village forty-five years ; 
that he was well acquainted with Mintus Northup, named in 
the annexed memorial of Anne Northup, from the year 1810 
to the time of his death, which occurred at Fort Edward, in the 
fall of 1829; that he knew the children of the said Mintus, 
namely, Joseph Northup and Solomon Northup, and that the 
said Solomon is the same person named in said memorial ; 
that said Mintus resided in the said county of Washington to 
the time of his death, and was, during all that time, a free citi 
zen of the said State of New-York, ^ deponent verily believes : 
that said memorialist, Anne Northup, is a woman of good char 
acter, and the statement contained in her memorial is entitled 
to credit. 

(Signed) BENJAMIN FERRIS 

Sworn before me, November 
19th, 1852. 

U. G. PARIS, Justice of the Peace. 



834 TWELVE TEAKS A SLA YE. 

STATE OF NEW- YORK: 
Executive Chamber, Albany, Nov. 30, 1852. 
I hereby certify that the foregoing is a correct copy of cer 
tain proofs filed in the Executive Department, upon which . 
have appointed Henry B. Northup an Agent of this State, tc 
take proper proceedings in behalf of Solomon Northup, there 
in mentioned. 

(Signed,) WASHINGTON HUNT. 

By the Governor. 

J. F. R., Private Secretary. 

STATE OF NEW-YORK : 

Executive Department. 
WASHINGTON HUNT, Governor of the State of Neiv-York 

to whom it may concern, greeting : 

Whereas, I have received information on oath, which is sat 
isfactary to me, that Solomon Northup, who is a free citizen of 
this State, is wrongfully held in slavery, in the State of Lou 
isiana : 

~~-And whereas, it is made my duty, by the laws of this State, 
to take such measures as I shall deem necessary to procure any 
citizen so wrongfully held in slavery, to be restored to his lib 
erty and returned to this State : 

Be it known, that in pursuance of chapter 375 of the laws of 
this State, ^issed in 1840, 1 have constituted, appointed and em 
ployed xenry B. Northup, Esquire, of the county of Washing 
ton tri this State, an Agent, with full power to effect the resto 
ration of said Solomon Northup, and the said Agent is hereby 
authorized and empowered to institute such proper and legal 
proceedings, to procure such evidence, retain such counsel, and 
finally to take such measures as will be most likely to accom 
plish the object of his said appointment. 

He is also instructed to proceed to the State of Louisiana 



APPENDIX. 335 

with all convenient dispatch, to execute the agency hereby 
created. 

In witness whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name, 

[L.S.] and affixed the privy seal of the State, at Albany, Jliis 

23d day of November, in the year of our Lord 15S52. 

(Signed,) WASHINGTON HUNT. 

JAMES F. RUGGLES, Private Secretary. 



G Page 309. 

STATE OF LOUISIANA: 

Parish of Avoyelles. 

Before me, Aristide Barbin, Recorder of the parish of Avoy 
elles, personally came and appeared Heury B. Northup, of the 
county of Washington, State of New-York, who hath declared 
that by virtue of a commission to him as agent of the State <tf 
New- York, given and granted by his excellency, WaslnngtwP 
Hunt, Governor of the said State of New- York, bearing date 
the 23d day of November, 1852, authorizing and empowering 
him, the said Northup, to pursue and recover from slavery a 
free man of color, called S<>l^iaon Northup, who is a free citi 
zen of the State of New- York, and who was kidnapped and sold 
into slavery, in the State of Louisiana, and now in the possess! on 
of Edwin Epps, of the State of Louisiana, of the Parish of Avoy 
elles ; he, the said agent, hereto signing, acknowledges that the 
said Edwin has this day given and surrendered to him as such 
agent, the said Solomon Northup, free man of color, as afore 
said, in order that he be restored to his freedom, and carried 
back to the said State of New- York, pursuant to said commis 
sion, the said Edwin Epps being satisfied from the proofs pro 
duced by said agent, that the said Solomon Northup is entitled 
to his freedom. The parties consenting that a certified copy of 
said power of attorney be annexed to this act 



336 TWELVE TEARS A SLAVE. 

Done and signed at Marksville, parish of Avoyelles, this 
fourth day of January, one thousand eight hundred and fifty 
three, in the presence of the undersigned, legal and competen 4 
witnesses, who have also hereto signed. 

(Signed,) HENRY B. NORTIIUP. 

EDWIN EPPS. 
ADE. BARBIN, Recorder. 
Witnesses : 

II. TAYLOR, 
JOHN P. WADDILL. 

&TATE OF LOUISIANA : 

Parish of Avoyelles. 

I do hereby certify the foregoing to be a true and correct 
wpy of the original on file and of record in my office. 

Given under my hand and seal of office as Recordei 
[L. .] in and for the parish of Avoyelles, this 4th day of 
January, A. D. 1853. 

(Signed,) ADE. BARBIN, Recorder 

THl 1NJO. 



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